A highly competitive and declining market in the Benelux countries has led to the insolvency of two major Dutch shoe retailers, House of Shoes and Schoenenreus, which had already gone bankrupt two years ago. House of Shoes, which had been voted by Dutch consumers as best shoe retailer four years ago, manages 27 shops in the country. Schoenenreus has more than 140 stores in the Netherlands and Belgium, down from over 200 prior to its previous bankruptcy.

Market research cited by the Macintosh Retail Group indicates that the footwear market fell by 2.1 percent in the Netherlands and by 0.7 percent in Belgium in the course of last year, while rising by 1.4 percent in the U.K. Macintosh claims that it gained market shares in the Netherlands and the U.K., as its Fashion segment, which comprises Manfield, Brantano, Jones Bootmaker and other shoe retail chains, grew by 12.6 percent in the Netherlands and by 4.3 percent in the U.K. It evolved in line with the market in Belgium.

Because of very mild weather, the market collapsed in the autumn, explaining in part the latest bankruptcies. In October and November, shoe retailers in the Netherlands and Belgium suffered estimated sales declines of 4.5 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, although December was better. For the whole fourth quarter, the Macintosh group's Fashion segment declined by 2.2 percent in the Netherlands and by 5.7 percent in Belgium and Luxembourg, but did 6.1 percent better than a year earlier in the U.K.

Overall, the Fashion segment of the group booked a sales increase of only 2 percent to €186.4 million in the fourth quarter, well below the 7.6 percent increase reached in the first nine months of last year. As a result, sales grew by only 6.0 percent to €678.7 million for the full year, rising by 3.4 percent in the physical stores and by 42.6 percent to €61.2 million online.

Margins were under pressure in the last quarter because of higher promotional discounts. Macintosh predicts that its 2014 operating results will be about €2 million worse than in 2013, excluding a non-cash impairment charge for Scapino's goodwill currently estimated at around €60 million. Excluding extraordinary charges, Macintosh had suffered an operating loss (Ebit) of €13 million in 2013.

Macintosh Retail Group is in the process of divesting its do-it-yourself home business. The management says it will study new options for further cooperation and optimization of its supply chain, as well as product development synergies and possibilities for consolidation of its various retail formats, following the poor results for the fourth quarter of 2014. They came in spite of sales increases of more than 30 and 20 percent in Manfield and Young Fashion stores that were converted to new formats.