The French voluntary group reported last week an increase of 1.8 percent in retail sales to €905 million including VAT for its eponymous Optic 2000 banner in 2016, which consolidated its leadership in a stagnant French optical market by reaching a share of 13.5 percent, according to an estimate by the magazine Bien Vu. It was followed by the Krys banner with a share of 11.4 percent and by Alain Afflelou with a share of 8.8 percent.

The number of Optic 2000 stores declined, but their average turnover showed a small increase, from €683,000 to €687,000, well above the average turnover of French opticians, estimated at around €520,000 per store. Optic Swiss Services, the group's subsidiary in Switzerland, reached retail revenues of €17 million in the past year.

At the end of 2016, the entire Optic 2000 group boasted a total of 2,255 affiliated points of sales with 1,183 shops trading under the Optic 2000 banner in France, down from 1,209 at the end 2015, plus 55 stores in Switzerland. It also serviced 222 mostly franchised Lissac stores, up from 216 in the previous year, and a total of 546 independent stores serviced through its Gadol and Groupe One buying groups. The revenues under the Lissac banner grew by 4.9 percent to €128 million in 2016, while the revenues of Gadol increased by 2.9 percent to €349 million. On top of this, the group had 249 affiliated Audio 2000 hearing aid centers at the end of 2016.

In order to cope with increasingly difficult conditions on its domestic market, Optic 2000 will continue to roll out its new store concept and push its “Zero Depense” (Zero Expense) offer, which aims for a minimal personal expense by the clients in their stores. The group will also launch new initiatives to reach customers outside of the traditional points of sales in the next weeks.

First launched in 2015, the new Optic 2000 store layout is offering a more digital shopping experience to the consumers with iPads and augmented reality mirrors to access a larger selection of sunglasses and optical frames. A total of 82 Optic 2000 stores have been upgraded to the new format so far, generating an average turnover increase of 6.3 percent, according to company officials, and the group is targeting a total of 150 stores under the new concept by the end of 2017.

Most candidates in the recent French presidential election, including Emmanuel Macron, had promised a 100 percent refund of optical expenses for consumers during their campaigns. The management of Optic 2000 feels that this is will be a long-term trend in the market, which they had anticipated last February by launching an “Objectif Zero Dépense” (Target Zero-Expense Goal) offer and marketing campaign. Under this system, the clients of Optic 2000 stores are automatically offered two options by the optician: one with nothing or almost nothing to pay, after taking into account social security and private mutual insurance refunds, and a second proposal for an upgraded set. According to company officials, 15 percent of Optic 2000's consumers had nothing personally to pay for their glasses last year, and 44 percent spent less than €50.

Starting in September, Optic 2000 will launch two new programs to reach customers outside of the optical retail store. The first one, conducted in partnership with a company called Otiko, will involve the launch of Optic 2000 sales counters in French pharmacies (more on this in the previous article in this issue). The second one will consist of visits by Optic 2000 opticians to the clients' homes in order to serve isolated or elderly people more easily. Finally, the cooperative will target kids with a special new training program for opticians and the establishment of dedicated spaces in the points of sales.