Three experienced retail personalities will support Brantano, the shoe retailer that was being dragged down in Macintosh Retail Group's downfall: Rens van de Schoor (Miss Etam), Dieter Penninckx (FNG) and Wouter Torfs (Schoenen Torfs).
Shoe retailer Brantano will move to a new enterprise, a so-called SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle enterprise), led by Dutch Rens van de Schoor, part of Miss Etam's owner, R&S Retail Group. Dieter Penninckx and the Torfs family's holding will also support the SPV which is meant to give Brantano a relaunch as a separate entity. A close collaboration with or integration of its retail activities may still lie in its future though.
FNG Group will not become part of the new construction. "It all came a bit too soon for the company", Dieter Penninckx explained. "We have a principal agreement about combining it with Etam, a plan that Bank Degroof will elaborate further. Our shareholders will be able to comment on those plans soon as Shoes are not exactly part of FNG Group's comfort zone. On top of that, everything had to move very fast, which is why the board decided to pass on this opportunity. That is why I am personally involved in this case. If, over the course of 6 to 12 months, our brain child proves to be healthy, we will further discuss any possible combination."
Torfs' family holding is also participating. "Between Christmas and New Year's, we convened the family and we were very convinced by the proposition. This type of acquisition is not in our nature, but how many times will you get the opportunity to participate in your biggest colleague?"
Only two weeks were required to finalize this remarkable acquisition, which shows a tremendous trust among the three business partners. Dieter Penninckx and Rens van de Schoor were already working on closer ties between FNG and R&S Retail when Macintosh Retail Group toppled.
Van de Schoor, a former banker and responsible for the Coltex Retail Group restructuring, had a chance to look into the case and place a bid. Dieter Penninckx, an independent board member in Schoenen Torfs' board, was interested as well, but wanted a shoe specialist on board. "I would not have done this without Wouter", he said.
"Rens is skilled at restructuring, Dieter knows his mergers and acquisitions and the Torfs family is an expert in the shoe industry, three strong skill sets that are now combined", Wouter Torfs said. "I consider this to be an incredible learning opportunity. Something that would have been impossible for me in the past, now gives me a great amount of desire. This is an adventure!"
The roles seem set in stone: "We will write a beautiful tale together."
"Bring Brantano back to life again"
All partners believe there is room in Belgium for multiple shoe formulas. "Brantano is a nice opportunity, especially knowing its stores have not seen any investments over the past 10 years. However, consumer behaviour changes faster than ever and we need to build a new concept to meet those altered demands. We will launch an investment program to lift Brantano up to a higher level once more." The chain will not become a blue version of Shoenen Torfs, as it will keep its own identity and personality. "We want to bring Brantano back to life again. It is still a competitor, but we do see possible synergies", Wouter Torfs confirms. "We could collaborate when it comes to purchase deals, for example."
Schoenen Torfs' 130 million euro turnover comes on the back of 75 stores in Flanders, while Brantano generates 140 million euro thanks to 140 stores in Flanders, Wallonia and Luxembourg. Combined, these stores could have a decent market share in the Belgian market, but there are also synergies between Brantano and FNG's stores and Miss Etam. Both groups reach more than 2 million buying customers every year, which is a huge advantage.
To put it into Rens van de Schoor's own words: "Fashion does not stop at the ankles." Miss Etam's customer base is rather similar to Brantano's and there is the option to add shoe sales to Miss Etam's stores, just like clothing could be added to Brantano's stores. On top of that, Miss Etam does very well online (20 - 25 % of total turnover, about half a million euro per week). "You could instantly add 100,000 euros' worth of shoes to that", Rens van de Schoor estimates, showing his faith in this new construction.
The deal will be signed in the following days, according to the parties involved.