Optic 2000, the large French buying group, has signed an agreement in principle to cooperate in purchasing and marketing with the Frères Lissac optical retail chain and to develop the present network of 30 Lissac franchised stores throughout France, with the goal of expanding it to 300 doors in 5 years' time and to 500 in 8 years. Lissac will continue to run separately its 29 corporate stores in choice locations, including its mega-store on Paris' rue de Rivoli, while benefiting from the strong purchasing power of Zéphyr, the common buying platform of Optic 2000 and GrandVision, and from the marketing know-how of Optic 2000 and from its data processing and logistic services, which are being boosted.

As part of the deal, which has yet to be finalized, Optic 2000 will acquire a minority stake of between 20 and 30 percent in Lissac and own between 50 and 70 percent of a joint venture that will manage separately the Lissac franchises. Evelyne Lissac, who had sought a deal with Alain Afflelou 3 years ago, but was blocked by her sister Anne-Marie Darnaud, will remain as chairman but will reduce her 90 percent stake in the family chain accordingly. Optic 2000 will have an option to take over its control in January of 2009.

Raouf Sabet d'Acre, who has helped to turn around Lissac in the last few years, will continue as managing director of the corporate store network, which will concentrate on the larger cities. Two or 3 stores will be added, while some of the existing ones will be refurbished or relocated to larger premises. Philippe Viot and Yves Guénin, chairman and managing director of Optic 2000, will instead run the Lissac franchises, providing the present and future retail members of the group with the choice of an alternative banner.

The partnership between Lissac and Optic 2000 follows the takeover in mid-October of another mid-sized French network of corporate and franchised stores, Lynx Optique, by Guildinvest, the investment arm of the French buying group that runs and services the Krys, Vision Plus and Vision Originale stores. Optic 2000 is a direct competitor of Guildinvest.