OPSM Group, the largest optical retailing group in Australia, has appointed a company veteran, Alan Smith, as group general manager for international development, its instruments business and relations with the government and industry. He replaces Peter Lenehan, who is retiring after 18 years in senior positions at OPSM. Sarah Paykel will succeed Smith as group general manager in charge of OPSM Australia.

The Australian group wants to grow strongly in other parts of the Pacific region and in Asia, particularly through acquisitions, but the priority is to improve the profitability of its existing foreign business. The total number of stores is set to grow to about 1,000 in the next 5 years, with about 300 stores outside Australia. Right now, OPSM has 436 stores in Australia, 35 in New Zealand, 31 in Hong Kong, 13 in Singapore and 12 in Malaysia.

OPSM recently decided to shed marginal activities to concentrate on optical retailing.Its acquisition a few months ago of Kays Optical, an Australian chain of 39 stores, raised the group's estimated share of the country's optical market to 33 percent. The group is planning to add about 100 stores to each one of its 3 present Australian chains ? OPSM, Laubman & Pank and Budget Eyewear. The latter two were acquired in May of last year, and Budget is being placed under separate management.

In the 6 months ended last Dec. 31, OPSM Group turned around to a net profit of 10,137,000 Australian dollars (e9,055,000-$8,946,000), as compared to a net loss of A$15,755,000 in the same period a year earlier, although numerous important divestitures reduced its revenues to A$206,378,000 (e 118,608,008-$117,185,000) from A$264,643,000. The group sold its Protector Supply business and its Face-It sunglass chain, which was bought by Sunglass Hut last December.

The group's optical sales in Australia grew by 39 percent to A$152.9 million (e87.9m-$86.8m) in the period, with a 6.5 percent gain on a same-store basis, despite of a few weeks of softness after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the USA. Earnings rose significantly, thanks in part to successful marketing campaigns for the OPSM chain. The Asian stores suffered a sales decline on a comparable basis, and the New Zealand stores had disappointing results. Since last December, the Asian businesses have coordinated their purchasing to capitalize on the group's buying power.