Germany's leading optical retailer reported its first sales decline in about ten years for the quarter ended March 31. Fielmann's consolidated revenues for the period went down marginally by 0.2 percent to €322.2 million. They were off by less than one percent on a comparable store basis, a spokesman for the company said, noting that they had been up year-on-year for each month except March.

Evidently, shoppers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the three main countries in which Fielmann operates, decided to go skiing and to engage in other holidays activities because of the earlier Easter in March. Fielmann claims to have gained market share again at least in Germany, where the overall optical retail market is estimated to have fallen by more than 2 percent in terms of units for the first three months of the year. At Fielmann, unit sales remained stable at 1.87 million across Europe.

A look at Fielmann's results by country for the quarter shows that its sales were practically flat in Germany at €249.3 million for the period against €249.6 million in the same quarter a year ago. The increased in Austria to €19.0 million from €18.1 million. In Switzerland, where Fielmann and other retailers continue to be affected by the strength of the Swiss franc, sales in euros fell to €40.4 million from €42.4 million.

Pre-tax earnings fell in Germany to €41.4 million from €51.8 million. They also decline in Switzerland, to €8.4 million from €6.6 million, but they improved in Austria to €4.2 million from €3.6 million.

The lower turnover, combined with slightly higher purchasing and personnel costs, led to a drop of 13.8 percent in the pre-tax profit to €54.1 million. Net earnings were off by 14.4 percent to €36.9 million.

Noting that the month of April has been very good for the group and that there will be three extra shopping days during the second quarter, Fielmann's spokesman said that the management was counting on positive results for the full first half of 2016 and for the year in general. He confirmed plans for the opening of new stores in Northern Italy, following the excellent performance of its first store in the country, located in Bolzano/Bozen.

Fielmann Consolidated Income Statement

('000 Euros), Quarter Ended March 31

 

2016

2015

%
Change

Germany

262.4XX

261.8XX

1.9

Switzerland

40.4XX

42.4XX

16.5

Austria

19.1XX

18.1XX

1.7

Others

7.7XX

7.0XX

-2.8

Total Sales

316,368

317,100

3.5

Other Operating Income

2,892

8,671

-66.6

Cost of Materials

63,593

62,573

1.6

Personnel Costs

135,150

130,456

3.6

Depreciation

9,422

9,224

2.1

Other Operating Expenses

62,864

66,547

-5.5

Net Interest

-49

-20

-

Minority Interest

1,264

1,134

11.5

Tax

15,897

18,143

-12.4

NET

38,175

44,613

-14.4

Earnings per Share (Diluted)

0.44

0.52

-15.4

Fielmann's lower profits did not shock investors. The company's share price remained relatively stable at €64.80 after the publication of the results and the annual press conference held on the same day yesterday. The Fielmann share has been trading in a range between €53.42 and €70.37 in the past 52 weeks. Fielmann's board is recommending a 9.4 percent increase in the annual dividend to €1.75 per share.

As of March 31, Fielmann operated a total of 695 stores, six more than a year earlier, and further openings are planned for the balance of this year.