Ahead of the new healthcare reform that has just been announced by President Emmanuel Macron (see other article in this issue), the French optical market dropped significantly last year after several years of steady growth, according to several sources. As we already reported (Eyewear Intelligence Vol. 19 - 4+5), GfK estimates that the French market went down by 1.4 percent in 2017. Based on a different type of survey, Bien Vu, the French trade publication, has reported a 1.8 percent decline from €6,716 million in 2016 to €6,595 million last year.

However, the downward trend was accompanied by a consolidation of the market with different fortunes for the various retail formats. Integrated and franchising retail chains like Alain Afflelou or GrandVision's banners, and voluntary groups like Optic 2000, Krys or Atol, felt the pinch but still overperformed with an average growth rate of 0.9 percent, according to Bien Vu.

On a comparable basis, though, voluntary groups seem to have best resisted the market headwinds since their number of stores remained stable in 2017, while franchised and integrated chains increased the number of their doors by 3.6 percent. Both formats fared well above the national average of €527,000 in terms of annual revenues per store with a turnover of €852,000 and €664,000 respectively. In terms of value, these two retail categories represented a total of €4,291 million or a market share of 65 percent last year, slightly higher than the previous year.

On the other hand, independent opticians operating under their own banners took most of the market's drop with a decline of 4.2 percent in their revenues to €1,693 million, for a market share reduced to 25.7 percent. They also underperformed severely in terms of the number of stores as 330 of them shut down last year. The total door count in France was down by 232 units for the year, meaning that the other retail categories continued to add new stores. Independent opticians have an average annual turnover of only €283,000, only slightly more than half the national average.

Looking at the individual retail banners, Optic 2000 remained in first position with a market share of 12.5 percent, followed by Krys and Afflelou with 11.7 and 9.1 percent, respectively. However, adding its other banners, the Krys Group remained the leader in France, as we recently reported (see Eyewear Intelligence Vol. 19 n° 6+7), with an aggregated market share of 14.6 percent. More detailed figures can be found in the June edition of the French magazine.

Optic 2000 announced last month a 0.9 percent increase in its retail members' revenues to €827 million for 2017, up from €820 million in 2016. The French voluntary group, which had published a €905 million figure last year for 2016, revised its calculation mode this year for a better accounting of its members' actual revenues. Separately, it reported a 8 percent sales increase to €45 million in 2017 in Switzerland, where the number of affiliated stores grew by five to 61.

Although the number of its affiliated stores in France went down last year by 18 units to 1,165, Optic 2000 can still boast the biggest network of opticians in the country, well ahead of its competitors. However, matching a general trend in the market that sees voluntary groups focusing on the better performing stores rather than adding more members, the average annual revenues of the Optic 2000 members rose last year by 2.4 percent to €710,000, far ahead the above-mentioned national average of €527,000 per store.

The management of the company mentioned that it had anticipated the upcoming French reform, which aims for consumers to be fully refunded for their optical glasses. It had launched in 2016 its “Objectif Zéro Dépense” program (Zero Cost Target), under which all its customers were systematically presented two offers for their equipment, the first one at no cost to them after factoring in social security and complementary reimbursements by private insurance companies. As a result, 44 percent of Optic 2000's clients had to pay less than €50 out of their own pocket for their glasses last year, the group said.

In view of the new reform, which should lead to refund a maximum of €30 for the frame itself, Optic 2000 officials also pointed out the importance of their private label offering. With no less than 17 exclusive brands on their shelves, they represented about 25 percent of the stores' sales in terms of volume last year.