The French Vivarte group, which has already sold Merkal, André and other retail chains, has entered exclusive negotiations for the sale of Besson Chaussures, a profitable chain of 133 suburban low-priced shoe stores that sold nearly 13 million pairs in 2017, generating revenues of €264 million.

The future owners of Besson are Weinberg Capital Partners, an investment firm founded by two former executives of PPR (the predecessor of Kering), and a French entrepreneur, Philippe Ginestet. The latter runs a mini-conglomerate, GPG, that last year bought Tati, a French chain of 109 low-priced apparel stores, from the Eram group.

GPG, which is set to take a minority stake of 49 percent in Besson, reached a turnover of €1.3 billion last year. It currently owns a total of 727 stores under three banners – Tati, Gifi and Trafic – and is now targeting a network of 1,000 stores by 2027, with a major development for Besson and common customer loyalty programs. Gifi is a large chain of low-priced stores for gifts and home furnishings. Trafic is a small Belgian chain of 83 discount stores.

Vivarte, which has owned Besson since 1998, has not been able to expand the shoe retail chain because it is in direct competition with a much larger chain, La Halle, which it has decided to keep and develop further. The current management of Vivarte has decided to sell Besson to avoid any further cannibalization.

As previously reported, Vivarte has divested other operations in the last two years to help reduce its debt, concentrating on five retail chains - La Halle, Caroll, Minelli, San Marina and Cosmoparis – as compared to 16 chains and a shoe manufacturing company before. All five chains are in different segments of the footwear sector except for Caroll, which sells clothing.

The group recently sold the well-known André chain of shoe shops to Spartoo and Naf Naf, a brand of women's wear, to a Chinese company. It still hasn't found a buyer for a sportswear brand in its portfolio, Chevignon, but is in talks with potential investors.