The big French footwear and apparel retailer has announced that it is in the final stages of exclusive negotiations for the acquisition of Beryl, a chain of 91 stores with a strong presence in the eastern part of France. If the deal is approved by regularatory authorities, Beryl will be added to Vivarte’s existing network of more than 2,600 stores, which include major footwear banners such as André, Besson, Chaussland, Cosmos, Fosco, Minelli and San Marina.

Vivarte already claims around 15 percent of the French shoe retailing market, but the bulk of the product sold in its stores is private label. Focused on selling multiple brands of women’s, men’s and children’s shoes under the same roof, Beryl will provide a complementary know-how, but it will also serve as an additional channel to sell Vivarte’s own private labels, such as Pataugas or San Marina.

Beryl sells many brands through its stores and on the internet, including Camper, Caterpillar, Geox, Kickers, Doc Martesn, Replay and Timberland, next to its own brand.

Beryl’s stores employ 650 persons, and only 43 percent of them are located in shopping malls. The others generally have a prominent place in urban downtown areas. Two private equity funds, including one controlled by Crédit Agricole of France, had acquired control of Beryl from the founding family in September 2005, financing its subsequent expansion. The company was previously known as Bonus-Beryl, after the names of the families that owned it before.

Vivarte itself is about to be acquired by another fund, Charterhouse, in a deal that values the group at around €3.5 billion. In announcing the change of ownership a few weeks ago, Vivarte indicated that it was looking at various acquisitions. It has already signed a contract to acquire Naf Naf, a leading French apparel group that has 800 company-owned and franchised stores under the Naf Naf and Chevignon banners.

It is understood that the completion of the acquisition of Naf Naf and Beryl is contingent on the completion of Charterhouse’s takeover of a majority stake in Vivarte, after European anti-trust authorities in Brussels give their consent to the transaction.