E. Leclerc, one of France's largest mass merchants, has opened its first optical retail outlet on 100 square meters at Franconville, just north of Paris. It should be followed by 20 others in 2006 and grow into a network of 100 stores by 2010, located for the most part in shopping malls anchored by Leclerc hypermarkets. Clearly discount-oriented, the new format announces a price structure positioned between 10 and 20 percent below that of conventional opticians, with additional discounts for the holders of Leclerc's fidelity card.

Leclerc, which pioneered the hypermarket format in France, is already involved in specialty retailing in other segments such as pharmacy, gardening and travel. The typical E. Leclerc Optique shop will feature more than 60 brands as well as a variety of more basic frames, plus contact lenses and other types of products, but the private label range has yet to be developed. The new optical retail network will be run by Bruno Santiano.

Another French hypermarket operator, Auchan, has seven optical retail shops. Their biggest competitor, Carrefour, had lots of them in various countries, but it decided to sell most of them to Alain Afflelou, which is in the process of franchising them out to independent retailers in France and Spain.