Larry Pollock has been promoted to become president and CEO of Cole National Corp., the large US optical retailer that owns a stake in Pearle Europe, following the retirement of Jeffrey A. Cole, the group's chairman and CEO. Walter Salmon, a professor of retailing at Harvard University, will become non-executive chairman.

Pollock, who has more than 30 years of experience in retailing, introduced various marketing, merchandising and personnel training initiatives that have improved Cole National's way of doing business since he entered the group as president and chief operating officer in January of 2000. His latest move was the appointment of a new manager, Terry Hanson, to run Cole National's Pearle Vision subsidiary in the USA.

Many of Cole National's chains in the USA improved sales and results in the past year, but in the 1st quarter ended May 3 sales in its vision segment decreased overall by 1.2 percent from the same level a year ago, which had been particularly strong. They were flat at Cole Licensed Brands and BJ Optical, up 15.3 percent at Target Optical, down 1.7 percent at Sears Optical and down 3.1 percent at Pearle Vision. The gross margin declined from 67.4 to 66.9 percent, while operating expenses increased from 64.4 to 67.8 percent. On the other hand, same-store sales in the vision segment picked up again in May, indicating a possible reversal in the negative trend.

Jeffrey Cole, whose father Joe founded the company more than 60 years ago, has been running the group since 1984. He will collect a big retirement bonus that will affect group results for the 2nd quarter. Jeffrey Cole was honored a few days ago by Prevent Blindness with the People of Vision Lifetime Achievement Award for his generosity and support of the association's programs.