Philippe Ginestet group about to acquire French footwear chain Besson Chaussures
Debt-laden French retail group Vivarte is about to sell the Besson Chaussures footwear chain, in what would be an important step in the group’s reorganisation effort. On the other side of the negotiating table, the Philippe Ginestet group (formerly Gifi) would instead be fuelling its growth through another acquisition. Profitable footwear retailer Besson Chaussures was put up for sale last January, and it is now set to be sold to French homeware group Phillippe Ginestet, which has joined forces with the Weinberg Capital Partners investment fund. The three companies have started exclusive negotiations which, should they end positively, would further strengthen the position of the Philippe Ginestet group as one of France’s leading retail distribution players.
Philippe Ginestet owns retail chains Gifi, Trafic and, since last year, budget apparel retailer Tati - the group’s first foray into fashion. Once the Besson acquisition will be completed, Philippe Ginestet said it would own a 49% stake in the suburban footwear retailer. Philippe Ginestet would be adding 133 stores to its existing retail network of 727 stores. The group's declared objective is to top the 1,000 store and 10,000 employee marks in the next few years.
To help seal the deal, Philippe Ginestet set up a partnership with Weinberg Capital Partners, a Paris-based private equity firm created in 2005 by two former directors of the PPR group, Serge Weinberg and Philippe Klocanas. Weinberg Capital Partners manages assets worth €900 million, chiefly in real estate.
Besson was described by Philippe Ginestet as “a highly profitable company with top-notch management, which was able to weather the economic crisis of the last few years.” In the 2016-17 financial year, Besson generated a revenue of €265 million and posted an 8% growth, according to its CEO François Gireau, who talked to FashionNetwork last March about the retailer’s renewed presence at the Franchise Expo trade show.
Philippe Ginestet has already talked about potentially opening a significant number of new stores, and is happy to be able to “strengthen in suburban areas.” The group would be adding to its portfolio a retail network that is both unique and profitable, whose stores are run by independent operators under an affiliation contract.
Besson Chaussures was created in the 1980s by the Besson brothers, and was bought by the Vivarte group in 1998. It owns the store's assets, but the store managers run the retail business and manage the staff through their own independent companies. Besson’s direct labour costs are therefore minimal.
For Vivarte, Besson Chaussures would be the last significant divestment, though the sale of apparel brand Chevignon is also on the cards. “Now focused on five retail chains, the group has the right size to allow each of its brands to benefit from the investment needed for their growth,” wrote Vivarte in a press release. The sale of Besson is expected to be finalised during the summer.
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