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Translated by
Nicola Mira
Oct 18, 2021
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Recovery plan for French menswear chain Celio gets court approval

Translated by
Nicola Mira
Oct 18, 2021

The future is looking rosier for Celio. In June 2020, hit hard by the pandemic, the French menswear retailer filed a job protection plan with the trade court in Bobigny, France, seeking to “safeguard the company during the crisis, and give it time to draw up a robust recovery plan that would enable it to weather the storm,” said Joannes Soënen, Celio's managing director since 2020. A goal that has now been reached, as on October 14 the court approved the recovery plan for the chain founded in 1978.

Celio operates 370 stores in France and 300 abroad - Celio

Soënen, a former director at Camaïeu and Tape à l'œil, said he is happy with the decision, adding that the plan filed with the court on September 22 was approved by all parties concerned, including employee representatives. “It is the first successful stage in the company’s turnaround, one that will allow it to function normally, but there are other steps still to be taken,” he stated.

Despite the fact that the current financial year has been disrupted by spring store closures (with a revenue loss of approximately €60 million), Celio has forecast it will break even by the end of the year, predicting a 2021 revenue of €500 million. The company is set to return to profitability in 2022.

Larger stores, new concept coming soon

Celio currently operates 370 stores in France, following a restructuring operation carried out a year ago which led to the closing down of 102 stores and to the loss of 383 jobs. “The streamlining was necessary, because the number of stores was excessive,” said Soënen, underlining that Celio is keen to find opportunities to open shops in high-footfall locations in which it is not present yet. “Our stores need to become larger and more powerful: we are going to look for premises bigger than our 200 m2 average, in order to both expand and relocate,” he said. Celio’s main goal is to boost revenue per square metre.

A new, more modern store concept with an omni-channel approach will be unveiled in November at the Carré Sénart shopping mall, close to Paris. “A concept that will shift the market paradigm,” said Sébastien Bismuth, who became Celio's president when Soënen himself joined the group, while also remaining in charge of womenswear retailer Don't call me Jennyfer.

A visual of Celio's ‘Be Normal’ ad campaign - Celio

Making its voice heard with a lateral approach seems to be one of the strategies deployed by Celio, which in summer launched a new, extensive advertising campaign. The campaign’s ‘Be Normal’ slogan celebrates ordinary people and the realities of different male figures, “without claiming to be trend-setting. Every man in France has a connection to Celio, a powerful link with the brand that we must reactivate,” said Bismuth. There is a hint of cheeky impudence too, one that Celio is keen to cultivate again, as notably shown by the partnership recently struck with temperamental French tennis player Benoît Paire.

Celio’s product range now focuses on “simpler yet still quality” products, and has been broadened to incorporate a number of new licenses, punctuating the brand’s collection launches. Celio has a “popular base” and is targeting a broad clientèle irrespective of style, keen to come across as a provider “of quality, affordable clothes.”

Reassessing presence outside France

Celio claims to have been the leading men’s ready-to-wear retailer in France for 30 years (currently with an 8% market share), and intends to concentrate on the domestic market. It is therefore reassessing its presence in other countries, where it now operates 300 stores. Celio wants to preserve and grow some of its subsidiaries, in Belgium and Spain for example, but has decided to franchise out its stores in Italy and the Czech Republic, and to downsize its master franchisor business in more distant countries.

Global supply chain tensions are affecting Celio, but management is confident that plenty of goods will be available for the chain’s busiest two months of the year, November and December. Nevertheless, as difficulties persist and are pushing costs up, a slight increase in retail prices isn’t ruled out for next year, reflecting a generalised trend in the fashion market.

Celio has boosted its license portfolio, as shown here with Batman and Nasa apparel - DR

Celio was founded by the brothers Marc and Laurent Grosman, who are still at the helm, and has managed to thrive as a family business despite disruptions that could have prompted the Grosmans to throw in the towel and decide to sell. “This was far from easy but it amounts to a real victory, because it's a key criterion for building something solid for the years to come,” said Bismuth. “Celio is again ready to compete. There is still work to do, and now it's a matter of steering the right course,” he added.

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