The economic environment in 2022 continues to be influenced by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as well as the effects of the war in Ukraine. Inflation rates remain persistently high, consumer sentiment is declining further. In Germany, corresponding measures are at their lowest level since the onset of recording in the early 1990s.
While many competitors have increased prices, customers of the Fielmann Group can rely on guaranteed low prices. We also remain committed to our Vision 2025 and continue to invest in the digitalisation and internationalisation of our family business: Our growth in e-commerce and in our international markets is a result of this.
According to preliminary numbers, the Fielmann Group grew its external sales incl. VAT and changes in inventories by +5,4% to about €1.53 billion (previous year: €1.45 billion) in the first nine months of 2022. Consolidated sales rose to circa €1.32 billion (previous year: €1.25 billion). Earnings before taxes will amount to approximately €141 million (previous year: €181.3 million).
Compared to the previous year, our e-commerce business delivered particularly strong growth of +39%: In total, we shipped more than one million parcels to our customers. With the further rollout of our omnichannel platform, we expect continued growth in the coming months. As the sale of prescription eyewear requires measurements and services in retail stores, e-commerce continues to be driven mainly by lower-margin sunglasses and contact lenses. The resulting change in the product mix is adding to our sales growth, however with only a subpar contribution to earnings.
The Fielmann Group grew in all major markets compared with the previous year, recording double-digit growth in Italy, Slovenia, Spain and in several Eastern European countries. As the price leader, we are expanding our market share in a challenging environment.
In Q3 the Fielmann Group was able to reach sales levels above last year despite considerable macroeconomic headwinds, especially in Germany: According to current estimations, external sales will increase to €536 million (previous year: €531.6 million) in the third quarter. Consolidated sales will rise to approximately €463 million (previous year: €460.8 million). Earnings before taxes amount to about €52 million for the third quarter (previous year: €85.4 million).
A decisive factor that impacted our earnings is the adjustment of salaries for our store staff. Our personnel costs rose by €43 million after nine months to a total of €564.6 million (previous year: €521.7 million). By increasing the salaries, we reflect our appreciation for the committed and dedicated service our employees in Germany and abroad are delivering to our customers every day. By offering attractive wages, we succeed in a competitive labour market characterised by a shortage of skilled staff.
In the first nine months, we created almost 400 additional jobs in our stores, employing a total of 22,640 staff as at the reporting date (previous year: 22,245). This increase in staff is mainly driven by our international expansion in Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic and Poland.
In addition to the change in our product mix towards more sunglasses and contact lenses, our guaranteed low prices and additional costs incurred as part of our "50 years of Fielmann" anniversary impacted our earnings.
Marc Fielmann, CEO of the Fielmann Group: "While many competitors have already significantly increased their prices during the crisis, we are thinking long-term and – as we did during previous structural reforms and crises – invest anti-cyclically in low prices to grow our market position. This pays off in the long term, because in times of uncertainty, customers buy where they can get guaranteed quality at the best prices. In eyewear and hearing aids, this is the Fielmann Group. Our new customer acquisition figures encourage us to resolutely continue this path.”
The effects of the war in Ukraine, persistently high inflation levels and continually rising interest rates are increasingly denting consumer confidence across Europe. Additionally, the lingering coronavirus pandemic continues to impact our business. Against this background, we expect external sales of approximately €2 billion (previous year: €1.94 billion), consolidated sales of around €1.75 billion (previous year: €1.68 billion) and an EBT of more than €160 million (previous year: €209.7 million) for 2022.
We remain optimistic: As the price leader, this crisis is an opportunity for us to gain market share and to retain our many new customers in the long term through excellent service.
The third quarter report will be published on 10 November 2022.
Hamburg, 02 November 2022
The Management Board