The Oakley brand seems to gaining a new momentum while Luxottica is completing the procedures for its takeover along with the rest of its company. As a whole, the Oakley group raised its sales by 29 percent to $263 million in the second quarter ended June 30, with 6 percentage points coming from the recent acquisition of Eye Safety Systems (ESS) and Bright Eyes and another 2 percentage points stemming from changes in exchange rates.

Scott Olivet, chief executive of the group, argued in a conference call with analysts that the Oakley brand is connecting with a wider range of consumers with better targeted products and brand messages, including the new women’s program and special editions for art-minded consumers like the Oakley Artist eyewear series being currently launched, using a new proprietary multi-layer printing technique. Oakley has just renewed its licensing deal with Ducati Motor Holding for another three years. Thanks in part to the introduction of the new Radar and Flack Jacket styles, prominently featured in the Tour de France, Oakley’s sales of sport performance optics were up by 56 percent during the latest quarter. The company claims it is gaining market share in polarized sunglasses.

Sales of optical products increased by 31 percent to represent 79 percent of total sales, with very strong growth in both sunglasses and prescription frames. Sales of apparel, footwear and accessories were up by 20 percent, with significant contribution from shoes and watches. The “other” category grew by 31 percent, driven by retail operations such as Optical Shop of Aspen, Sunglass Icon and Bright Eyes, yet the management was not quite satisfied with the performance of Oliver Peoples and Dragon during the quarter.

Global sales to wholesale customers increased by 27.1 percent to $201.0 million in the quarter; with a 29.2 percent gain in the U.S. market to $96.1 million. U.S. retail sales jumped by 36.8 percent to $62.2 million. Oakley stores recorded double-digit increases on a same-store basis.

The number of company-owned stores at June 30 totaled 275 doors, which compares with 187 units at the same date one year ago. The group expects to end the current year with a total of 420-430 outlets, including the Bright Eyes franchises.

Outside the USA, group revenues grew by 25.2 percent to $104.9 million, up by 20.1 percent on a constant currency basis. Sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa registered a significant double-digit increase in optics and nearly flat sales of apparel, footwear and accessories, mainly due to a lack of product availability. Significant double-digit increases were recorded for both categories in other main regions of the world. Oakley’s Japanese subsidiary to raised its sunglass sales by 20 percent, particularly through a specifically designed line of golf eyewear with an Asian fit.

The reported gross margin grew to 57.6 percent from 56.3 percent in the year-ago period, rising in particular for Oakley sunglasses and prescription frames, but it actually decreased excluding extraordinary items. Operating income increased to $37.4 million from $28.0 million, but margins were depressed by a planned shift in advertising and marketing efforts from the first to the second quarter and by costs of about $2 million related to the merger deal with Luxottica.

The group made a net income of $21,452,000 in the quarter, up from $17,871,000 a year ago. The management is not changing its profit forecast for the full year but is raising its revenue projections, after the good sales score of the second quarter. Net sales in a range of $930-960 million are now expected for 2007, compared with a previous budget of $900-930 million (more in EyeWear Intelligence).