With a unanimous vote, Fielmann's supervisory board endorsed the resignation of Günther Fielmann, who is now 80 years old, as chief executive of the company on Nov. 21 and the transfer of all his responsibilities to his 40-year-old son, Marc Fielmann, who has already started to make waves on the digital and international development fronts.

It was the final step in a long-term succession plan, says the group. Marc first became joint chief executive in April 2018, and he assumed additional responsibility for the corporate strategy last February.

Günther Fielmann started the company in 1972 by setting up his first store in Cuxhaven and listed it on the stock exchange in 1994, but the Fielmann family controls more than 71 percent of the company's shares. As the company puts it, under him Fielmann “democratized eyewear fashion and became market leader thanks to its customer-friendly services, fashionable eyewear at fair prices and comprehensive services.”

In Germany, Fielmann claims market shares of 21 percent in value and 53 percent in terms of units sold. As part of his Vision 2025 strategy, Marc Fielmann has declared his desire to gain the leadership in Europe. Under him, the company acquired 70 percent of Optika Clarus, a Slovenian optical retail chain of 27 stores, with effect from Sept. 1.

After the acquisition, Fielmann had 770 stores in 14 countries on Sept. 30, up from 729 a year earlier. The number of stores with a hearing aid studio increased to 206 from 191. On the same date, the group employed 20,519 people compared with 19,488. Of those, 4,356 were apprentices, up from 3,928.

A few days ago, Fielmann entered into a new region of Italy by opening a store in Ferrara, the 26th one in the country, after opening a store in the nearby region of Tuscany in Lucca. After attacking the Italian market from the north in 2015, it is gradually going south.

As part of the new strategy, the group sharply increased its investments in the first nine months of the current financial year ended on Sept. 30. They went up to €74.4 million from €47.1 million in corresponding period of 2018, and they were entirely financed from its cash flow.

Pre-tax earnings rose to €206.1 million during the nine-month period, compared with €196.1 million, and net income increased to €143.0 million from €135.7 million. Consolidated revenues went up by 7.5 percent to €1,158.3 million, with a rise of 7.0 percent in local currencies.

In the nine months, Fielmann's sales rose by 6.9 percent to €915.9 million in Germany, generating a pre-tax profit margin of 19.2 percent. The pre-tax margin was lower at 15.4 percent in Switzerland, where sales increased by 7.6 percent in reported terms to €135.4 million. The margin was higher in Austria at 20.0 percent on 7.7 percent higher sales of €67.0 million. Sales in the rest of Europe jumped by 18.7 percent to €40.0 million, but they generated an increased pre-tax loss of €3.8 million.

Because of the impact on Fielmann's store leases from the introduction of the new IFRS 16 standards, the company's equity ratio has decreased considerably to 50.7 percent as of Sept. 30 from 75.1 percent last Dec. 31.

The figures published by Fielmann for the third quarter show a 9.2 percent increase in consolidated revenues to €400.1 million, although the number of units sold went up by 2.5 percent to 2.06 million and the rise in external sales, including the group's business with third parties, was limited to 7.6 percent, reaching €463.2 million.

On the other hand, quarterly pre-tax profit declined to €78.5 million from €80.0 million in the year-ago period, due to non-recurring gains in the previous year and an increase in the number of employees. The quarterly net income was down to €54.7 million from €55.4 million.

Fielmann's share price has gone up by more than 15 percent since August, giving it a stock market capitalization of €6.0 billion.