SCHIPHOL, The Netherlands—GrandVision NV (Euronext: GVNV) reported Friday that its sales in the first quarter fell 0.7 percent to €899 million from €926 million in the first quarter of 2020, with comparable revenue declining 1.5 percent compared with the year-ago first quarter. On a comparable basis, the current quarterly sales result was 10.8 percent below the 2019 level, the company said and noted it was providing 2019 comparisons because of last year’s “exceptional nature.”

The retailer noted that it continued to “show resilience in the first quarter despite the most recent COVID-19 related government restrictions in Europe and Latin America.”

GrandVision also noted in its announcement that it continues “to support EssilorLuxottica (Reuters: ESLX.PA) with the shared objective to obtain regulatory approval for the closure of the acquisition by EssilorLuxottica of [GrandVision parent company] HAL’s 76.7 percent interest in GrandVision before July 31, 2021. The transaction is still under review in Turkey, and awaits a decision by an arbitration panel in a matter that GrandVision initiated, as VMAIL reported.

In its first-quarter results, GrandVision said its adjusted EBITA of €79 million marked an increase of 98.1 percent at constant exchange rates compared with €41 million in the year-ago first quarter. Continued cost discipline, structural improvements in certain territories and improved product and price mix contributed to the underlying performance, GrandVision said in its earnings announcement on Friday.

Approximately 95 percent of the GrandVision store network was open at the end of March 2021. Temporary store closures from ongoing government restrictions impacted outlets, mainly in shopping malls. France was the most affected with around 300 stores temporary closed during the period, the company said.

In addition, GrandVision said its e-commerce sales via omnichannel-enabled retail brands increased 128 percent during the first quarter versus the prior year and “the pure-play e-commerce platforms delivered high single-digit growth.” The global online platforms continue to deliver positive growth momentum, with digitally influenced store sales doubling compared with the year-ago period.

Net debt totaled €569 million at the end of March 2021, which compares with €755 million in March 2020.

"It has been a challenging start to 2021. Nonetheless, GrandVision continues to show strong resilience, despite the ongoing uncertainties that the COVID-19 pandemic brings with it,” chief executive officer Stephan Borchert said.

During the quarter, footfall remained at lower levels compared to 2019, he added. “However, we do see an overall stabilization and have maintained the strong conversion trend delivered in the second half of 2020. In addition, our customers’ ongoing inclination to higher-value products continues to bolster positive price and product mix effects.”

Borchert said the company’s geographic segments delivered a mixed performance. The positive momentum continued in the Nordics, the U.K., Switzerland and Americas and Asia, including the U.S. market. (GrandVision owns the For Eyes optical retail business in the U.S.)

In France, almost 300 owned and franchisee stores have been temporary closed due to COVID-19 increased government restrictions, accounting for one-third of the group’s revenue shortfall versus 2019. At the start of the quarter, Germany and BeNe were also temporarily impacted by the additional COVID-19 related measures, although with a gradual recovery toward the quarter-end, according to Friday’s announcement.

“Our online sales have continued to grow,” Borchert said. “Total e-commerce sales including omnichannel-enabled retail brands and our pure players grew by 35 percent compared to 2020.”