Almost of all of the 200-odd optical retailers affiliated with the Spanish Multiòpticas consortium have decided to form a new limited partnership, NewCo Holding Optics S.L., intended to speed up the development of new optical, sunglass and hearing aids stores in Spain as well as abroad. They feel that such a corporate format will provide more flexibility in the expansion process than their cooperative, which will continue to function regularly like before. In fact Multiòpticas, run by Javier Sanchis, will manage the new structure, consolidating the position of the group as one of the major factors in the market.

NewCo Holding Optics is intended especially to promote a fast development by Multiòpticas and its members of a new format of sunglass stores, called Espacio Sol, and of a chain of hearing aids shops, Micro Audio. The first stores of this kind have already started up in Spain. By the end of this year, they should form networks of between five and ten Espacio Sol stores and about 25 Micro Audios. It's not clear for the moment whether any of the new stores will be actually owned by the new company directly. The new company is starting up with a capital of €3 million.

Multiòpticas currently runs a network of more than 500 optical stores throughout Spain which are owned by the members of the cooperative. Together they generated sales of about €300 million in 2007. Besides handling the members' purchases, Multiòpticas provides them with a number of other services, including marketing support for their common banner. In the first six months of this year it spent more than €5 million in advertising to help them compete with other established chains and new entrants on the Spanish market such as Alain Afflelou, another big advertiser.

Nothing specific could be learnt about the foreign expansion plans of NewCo Holding Optics, except that the first targets will be countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America. This new company and the Spanish Multiòpticas cooperative have nothing to do directly with Multiòpticas Internacional, a separate Spanish firm that operates stores in foreign countries such as Chile, Colombia and Ecuador.

This franchising firm was started up by José Luis Carceller, a former general manager of Multiòpticas who also owns Sun Planet, a Spanish chain of sunglass stores. Some of the retail members of Multiòpticas have shares in Sun Planet and Multiòpticas International. As reported in EyeWear Intelligence one year ago, Carceller was envisaging a merger involving Sun Planet, Multiòpticas and +Vision, another Spanish optical retail chain that currently has 15 company-owned stores and 320 franchises. As reported in the last EWI, that plan never came through and the parent company of +Vision, the MasVision Group, has now been taken over by HAL Holding, the international group that owns GrandVision and Pearle Europe.