Italy's Vision Group, which has 1,300 retail members with 1,700 outlets, has announced a 30 percent increase in the number of shops affiliated with its more closely integrated Vision Ottica network of franchised stores in the first quarter of 2016. Out of the 57 new stores that have joined the network, 11 are new openings or stores that have undergone restructuring to fit the group's format, in some cases with a financial investment by the group.

There are now a total of 254 stores being operated by independent opticians under the common Vision Ottica banner. Some 14 of them are “pilot centers” with the same visual identity, located in 18 regions of Italy. The group's chairman, Marco Procacciante, wants to take the number of Vision Ottica stores up to 350 over the next three years. The current leader, Salmoiraghi & Viganò, has a total of 320 outlets trading under its name as directly owned stores or franchises, but it has recently announced a new phase of expansion.

Since the arrival in 2014 of a private equity fund, Arcadia, which paid $10 million for a 46 percent share in its equity, Vision Group has established itself as an important player with annual retail sales of around €450 million and an estimated market share of around 16 percent. It is aiming to reach a 20 percent share of the Italian eyewear market in the next three years.

As previously reported (EWI Vol. 17 n° 3 of Feb. 26, 2016), Vision Group has teamed up with two other buying groups, Cione in Spain and Atol in France, to form a new European buying cooperative called Retina.