The French optical and photo retail group, which now employs for the first time more than 10,000 employees around the world, is looking for the right country manager and for adequate sites for its first optical stores in Germany, which will be the main condition for making the big step. Grandvision hopes to open its first stores in Fielmann's own fief sometime next year, after testing out the competition against the German optical giant across the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich.

Grandvision has reported a nice 16 percent rise in its revenues to 197 million euros for the 1st quarter ended March 31, as compared to the same period a year ago. The increase was due only in part to the opening of new stores in France and abroad. In the 3-month period, the group's global store network grew from 874 to 893 outlets, with 12 new openings in France, 6 new optical shops in the UK and 5 more in other countries outside France, mainly Belgium and Italy. Four stores were sold.

The company's sales in France grew by 9 percent in the quarter to e113 million, with both the optical and photo shops showing a 5 percent increase on a comparable basis. In the UK and Ireland, sales grew by 27 percent to e67 million, but the increase in local currencies was only 15 percent. The stores converted to the new Vision Express Optical Lab format experienced an overall 22 percent sales increase, while the others got their sales up by 9 percent on a comparable basis.

Elsewhere, sales rose by 23 percent to e17 million, or by 18 percent in local currencies. The stores that were left untouched raised their sales by 6 percent on a comparable basis, but many were actually converted to more profitable formats. Major sales increases were recording in key markets such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Luxembourg and Poland.

In the UK, Vision Express has appointed 3 new senior executives at its support office in Nottingham. Brian Douglas, former director of operations at Woolworth, has become retail director of Vision Express. Antonio Trapini, who worked previously for Bausch & Lomb Europe, is the new finance director of the British chain. Simon Innes, former retail director of Hamleys, has been named as managing director of Vision Express' joint ventures.