The big French retail conglomerate, which covers about 20 percent of the French shoe market through chains like André, La Halle aux Chaussures, Minelli and San Marina, is changing its head for the third time in four years. The investment groups and other shareholders that refinanced the company two years ago have appointed Stéphane Maquaire as the new chief executive of Vivarte, starting in the second quarter.
Maquaire, 41, created wonders in terms of sales and profits as the CEO of Monoprix, a big French chain of variety stores, since he took its helm in 2010, positioning it in a higher segment of the market, creating various satellite operations and launching a successful omni-channel retailing strategy. With 600 stores, 200 more than when he took office, Monoprix generated sales of more than €4.2 billion in the last year. Maquaire worked previously at Arthur Andersen and for a major operator of shopping centers.
He is expected to drive the next stage of the group's recovery after the drastic measures taken by his predecessor, Richard Simonin, a well-known “company doctor” who ordered the closure of 288 stores, mostly in the textile sector, and the net reduction of 1,600 of the group's 22,000-odd employees. Simonin will remain for a certain period of time as an adviser to optimize the transition.
Simonin was appointed Vivarte's CEO in October 2014 at the urging of the new shareholders to reduce the group's losses and reposition its banners. He took the place of Marc Lelandais who had replaced Georges Plassat in 2012. Plassat is now running Carrefour.
Excluding the stores being closed down, Vivarte's sales declined to €2,384 billion in the financial year ended last August, with footwear representing close to 60 percent of the total turnover, with a drop of 6.5 percent on a comparable store basis, but they were more or less stable in the first six months of the current financial year, ended on Feb. 29.
Operating earnings before amortization (Ebitda) fell last year to €74 million for continuing operations from €170 million in the previous financial year, but they increased by about 34 percent in the quarter ended last November. They are now expected to increase to around €120 million for t 1he full financial year, down from a previous target of €140 million, due to the negative effect of the terrorist attacks in Paris and the warm weather in the autumn. The management has started to work on an updated business plan for the next five years.
Meanwhile, one of the four major shareholders of Vivarte, GoldenTree, has decided to reduce its stake, freeing one on the seats of on the board of directors. It is not yet sure who will take over its place along the three other funds – Oaktree, Babson and Alcentra.