Italy's major chain of optical stores, Salmoiraghi & Vigano, is fostering the establishment of a separate buying group of independent opticians to whom it will extend some of its own very favorable purchasing conditions.

The project is conducted by Massimo Corti, who is in charge of franchising and new business development for Salmoiraghi. In just one month, 6 opticians have already joined the group, and another 30 or so are ready to do so. They will be identified by a sign in the store window reading ?Affiliated with the Salmoiraghi & Vigano Group.? Membership conditions include a registration fee of 3 million lire (e1,530-$1,315) for the first outlet, plus half that figure for additional outlets, and the obligation to make 60 percent of purchases through the chain.

Salmoiraghi now has a total of 170 sales outlets, including 23 franchises following the recent acquisition of 22 discount stores from Lodi Optik. Another 6 Lodi Optik stores will be transferred to Salmoiraghi in June, taking the total up to 28. The banner of these stores will be changed to L. Optik, and they will be run separately by a Salmoiraghi official, Franca Dall'Ara.

Salmoiraghi closed the past fiscal year with a turnover of 31 million euros, but this figure refers only to the 7 months after its transfer of ownership from General Optica to a group of managers and institutional investors. Compared with the same 7-month period of 1999, revenues increased by 8.5 percent on a same-store basis.