A French bankruptcy court has decided to let Renaud Dutreil take over Rondinaud, the leading French brand of so-called “charentaise” slippers. The brand, which has been manufacturing the higher range of its product line in France, will lead a cluster of slipper brands in the Charente region.

Dutreil, a former member of the French government in charge of small and medium-sized enterprises, has already acquired two similar brands of slippers in the same region, Degorce and Laubuge. He plans to make a bid for another brand in the same sector, Ferrand, which is also in financial trouble.

With 66 employees in France, Rondinaud generated sales of €9.6 million last year. As we previously reported (Shoe Intelligence, Vol. 18 N° 12+13 of June 10, 2016), the family-owned company embarked on a major diversification in the last few years to reinforce its label and reduce its reliance on private label manufacturing for big mass market clients that are now sourcing their slippers directly from low-cost countries.

The diversification program caused extra costs that led Rondineau to book a loss of €800,000 last year and a cash squeeze, forcing its 63-year-old chief executive, Frédéric Rondinaud, to seek bankruptcy protection in February, after one of his brothers refused to provide certain guarantees. It had 80 employees at the time.

Dutreil has agreed to acquire Rondinau's factory, to retain 55 of its employees and to inject €2.7 million into the company. A larger part of the production will be outsourced to a factory in Morocco that Rondineau has been using already.

Dutreil won the bid for Rondineau against another French investor, Eric Lefranc, with his much bigger Renaissance Luxury Group, who was offering to retain 54 employees and to hire ten others for some of the production carried out in Morocco. Like Dutreil, he is attached to the “made in France” label, and he has already turned around six other French companies in the areas of fantasy jewelry and leathergoods.