German opticians had predicted a slight increase in their own turnover, but they are now expecting flat sales in 2001 at best. A survey conducted in August by their trade association, ZVA, showed declines in retail sales of frames of 5.6 percent in volume and 3.6 percent in value in the first 8 months of this year.

More than 30 percent of all the frames used in Germany are refitted with new lenses, yet sales of lenses are estimated to have declined by 1.3 percent in the first 6 months of this year. For the first 8 months, the estimated decline was of 6.7 percent in units and 0.4 percent in revenues. All in all, ZVA's August survey showed, half of the German opticians sold fewer frames in the first part of the year, and 40 percent of them sold fewer lenses.

Despite the continued sluggishness of the German optical market, the number of optical practices or shops continued to increase slightly in the first half of 2001, reaching a total of 9,719. The sector's turnover was very high, with 241 older practices closed and 270 new ones springing up over the period.

Meanwhile, the German ophthalmic optical industry recorded its first decline in overall exports in years during the first 6 months of 2001. Total export sales fell by 3.6 percent to 518.6 million DM (e265m-$235m), despite an encouraging rise in foreign sales of spectacle lenses, probably due to the major technological strides of Carl Zeiss and Rodenstock with their customized progressives. While the industry's total exports to other member countries of the European Union were down, those to the USA grew by 6 percent, and those to Eastern Europe were up 21.8 percent.

The country's total imports of optical products rose by 12.6 percent to 725 million DM (e371m-$329m) in the first half, with increases of 13.6 percent from the rest of the EU, 89.6 percent from the USA and only 6.1 percent from the Far East.