Byline: Robert Murphy

PARIS — Missing its target for double-digit growth, French retailer Groupe Galeries Lafayette said Tuesday that net profit grew 8.9 percent in 2001 to $86.7 million, compared with $83.3 million in the same period last year.
After releasing the 2001 figures at a press conference, Galeries Lafayette co-chief executive officer Philippe Lemoine surprised observers when he was quoted in a published report saying that the company would consider acquiring Sephora, LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s unprofitable fragrance and cosmetics retail group, if it were available.
As reported, LVMH has denied that it intends to sell Sephora, at least before it can be restructured. However, last year, it shuttered its seven-unit operation in Japan.
Reports have persisted since then that it intends to scale back its German operation with all or part of that unit being sold to Douglas Perfumery, the dominant German cosmetics and beauty retailer.
Sales in the period increased 5.4 percent to $4.6 billion. Dollar figures are converted from the euro at current exchange rates.
Lemoine and co-ceo Philippe Houze had told the press conference that the firm’s 2001 performance was “respectable considering the post-Sept. 11 effect.”
The group runs about 100 department stores under the Galeries Lafayette, Nouvelles Galeries and BHV banners, as well as the Monoprix grocery and variety chain.
Looking ahead, Houze and Lemoine said they wanted to bolster growth through the Marks & Spencer stores recently acquired on the European mainland. They set a double-digit profit growth target for this year.