Luxottica Group SpA said Monday sales fell in the fourth quarter, but forecast a resumption of overall growth in 2010.

This story first appeared in the January 26, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The Milan-based eyewear giant reported sales in the final three months of 2009 dropped 6.4 percent to $1.16 billion euros, or $1.71 billion, from $1.24 billion euros, or $1.63 billion, in the year-ago period. However, adjusting for the extra week of North American selling in 2008 and an extra week in Asia-Pacific and South Africa last year, the decline was 3.4 percent and, excluding currency fluctuation, translated into a 2.1 percent increase, the firm’s best top-line performance of the year.

Dollar amounts have been translated at average exchange for the periods to which they refer.

Luxottica’s retail division, which includes Sunglass Hut, saw sales erode 8.8 percent to 708.2 million euros, or $1.05 billion, from 776.8 million euros, or $1.02 billion. However, they rose 3.4 percent when adjusted for calendar and currency shifts. The wholesale division’s revenues slid 2.4 percent, at both constant and average exchange, to 448.9 million euros, or $663 million.

The company said fourth-quarter same-store sales rose 0.9 percent in North America and were up 2.9 percent in the November-December holiday period.

Andrea Guerra, chief executive officer of Luxottica, pointed to signs of stabilization in the second half and cited the “double-digit growth seen by the Ray-Ban and Oakley brands.”

The fourth-quarter performance should pave the way for “a return to normal in terms of sales growth, margin improvement and debt reduction in fiscal year 2010,” Guerra said. Margin gains are expected to be stronger in the wholesale division.

For the full year, sales declined 2.1 percent to $5.09 billion euros, or $7.1 billion.

Shares of Luxottica rose 0.18 euros, or 1 percent, to 18.98 euros, or $26.85, on Monday in Milan trading.

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