A recent report on the British optical trade by Mintel indicates that internet retailers and discounters such as the Tesco supermarket chain, which is planning to set up 30-40 optical shops in the near future, could win some market shares in the UK, where retail sales of optical products increased by 26.3 percent in current prices to £2,016 million (e3,452m-$3,190m) between 1995 and 1999. The mail order market for contact lenses is likely to take off.

Small businesses continue to dominate the UK market, with 60 percent of the practices reaching an annual turnover of less than £250,000 (e430,000-$400.000). The reports suggests that independents should invest more on manpower and training and concentrate on niche segments like children's eyewear (for more information, call +44 20 7606 6000).

According to another recent British market survey, the first one to have been published by Plimsoll on the UK optics industry, the 10 most "aggressive" optics companies in terms of sales growth in the UK are Exactaform, Metzler, Wholesale Lens Co., Buhler UK Holdings, Optical Filters, L'Amy Eyewear, Optipak, Namaric, CTP Voil and Specsavers Optical Superstores.

The report shows that 25 of the 1,103 companies analyzed grew by 15 percent or more in 1999, against an average sales growth of only 3.4 percent in the industry. Another 23 percent had a sales decline. Plimsoll's book lists 25 companies as being ?potentially desirable to own,? including 9 major players. At least one of them may change ownership in 2000, the report indicates (for more information, contact Jennifer Ovington, +44 1642 257 800).