Sunglass Hut International has reached a franchising agreement with Diethelm Keller to open the first round of 15 Sunglass Hut stores in Thailand. Financial terms were not released. The deal strengthens Luxottica's position in Southeast Asia, an area where it sees high potential growth for the sun retail business that can be addressed through its own stores and other channels.

Sunglass Hut has 1,970 stores worldwide, of which 220 are located in Asia and Australasia. The chain already has a presence in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Sunglass Hut is applying the new store concept introduced in the USA to all its new locations as far away as Sydney. Nearly 300 stores in the USA have been partly or fully renovated since last September, leading to sales increases of 20-30 percent and in some cases 50 percent, helping to offset the consequences of a poor economy.

The new concept provides a new shopping experience for the customer. The windows of the store are made more attractive, acting like a theatrical stage. The inner layout permits frequent changes in the display. Full-body mirrors give customers better possibilities for self-appraisal of new styles.

Luxottica officials also sound happy about the launch of the company's new luxury eyewear retail concept, Ilori. Sales have remained above expectations, reaching new records in the two weeks before the recent MIDO show in spite of very little advertising. The only problem is that it is difficult to find the right locations in the USA, so company officials are looking at the option of opening Ilori concessions in leading department stores.