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Vivarte plans to sell Kookaï, Chevignon and Pataugas brands

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AFP
Translated by
Nicola Mira
Published
today Jul 1, 2016
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FashionMag learned on Thursday from multiple sources that French retail group Vivarte (owner of retailers La Halle, La Halle aux chaussures, André, Caroll, Minelli, San Marina, etc.) has announced it plans to sell its brands Kookaï, Chevignon and Pataugas, for a total of over 900 jobs.

Kookaï


Karim Cheboub, the CGT union's secretary within the group's employee committee, has stated to the AFP agency that "we have simply been informed by phone, with no further details" about the intended sale of the three retail brands. "The stripping of the group continues," added the outraged CFDT union coordinator, Jean-Louis Alfred.

However, the intended sale was part and parcel of the group's new set-up. The three brands had become the responsibility of the group's CFO, a clear sign of what was in the cards.

Another tell-tale sign was the sale of several Chevignon and Kookaï stores, with an eye to ensuring that wholesalers would handle these brands' distribution.

Kookaï in particular was in trouble. Last January FashionMag Premium commented: "Within the Vivarte group, Kookaï has cause for concern. What can the future hold for the brand, a former standard-bearer of young French fashion, given that in its last fiscal year, closed at the end of August 2015, it recorded a 23% decline in revenue, down to €72.5 million, with losses for €30 million? "

Vivarte, managed since the spring by Stéphane Maquaire, the former boss of retailer Monoprix, had already announced at the start of the year the sale of footwear company CVC, with 140 employees, and of retailer Défi Mode (85 stores, 340 employees). The Accessoire Diffusion brand too was sold in January.

A spokesperson for Vivarte's management has confirmed to AFP the intention to sell Kookaï, Chevignon and Pataugas, indicating that "this is only the start of a process," which is expected to last several months,  beginning with the search for buyers.

Vivarte wishes to provide these three highly popular retailers with "the means to expand," by ensuring that they are "backed by a shareholder" endowed with the necessary resources, given the group's inability to support vigorously "each of its 16 brands," the spokesperson explained.

At the end of 2015, the three retail brands now up for sale had a total of 910 employees: Kookaï had 600, Chevignon 250 and Pataugas 60.

"I have asked for an extraordinary meeting of the group's employee committee to be held as soon as possible, so that it can at least be informed about the consequences for the employees," stated Karim Cheboub, condemning the "total lack of transparency" in the matter.

Kookaï's and Chevignon's employee representatives have been informed on Thursday, at a meeting of the two retailers' work councils, according to the management spokesperson, who added that Pataugas employees, who do not have a representative committee, have been informed directly.

Last February, the trade unions represented at Vivarte (CFDT, CFE-CGC, CFTC, CGT, FO and Sud) denounced the group's troubles in an open letter to its former CEO, Richard Simonin. Vivarte had created four job-saving plans at La Halle, Kookaï, Défi Mode and André in 2015, with the prospect of cutting 1,850 jobs.

Jean-Paul Leroy (with AFP)

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