The Belgian fashion chain e5 Mode, currently under debt protection, seems to have caught the eye of a Danish fashion holding. It does face competition from Dutch and Belgian potential buyers, however, including one supported by the Flemish government.
Backed by local government
On the final bidding round for Belgian fashion chain e5 Mode, some five suitors seem to be in the running. On the Dutch side there are serial entrepreneurs Lex Hes and, purportedly, Martijn Rozenboom. Given the controversial and questionable track record of both these men, who have been involved in numerous bankruptcies in the past, more importance is however attached to the bids of Belgian fashion retailer ZEB and the consortium that has been formed around the Flemish textile entrepreneurs Peter and Kristof De Sutter.
De Sutter owns textile factories in Tunisia as well as the international jeans supplier producer Ansi, which, in addition to jeans trousers for e5 Mode, also manufactures denim for major global brands such as Trussardi, Zara and Lee Cooper. In their takeover bid on e5 Mode they are backed by PMV, the Flemish government's investment fund. This candidate would also have the support of current owner Frédéric Helderweirt, who, according to local newspaper De Standaard, had already approached the De Sutter family as a possible investor last year.
Market for Danish senior fashion?
However, there appears to be yet another potential buyer. Although unconfirmed, the mystery bidder is said to come from Denmark and would want to add e5 Mode to its brand portfolio. Erik Van Heuven, former European director of the Danish IC Companys and previously CEO of Galeria Inno, can think of two big contenders. The first is EQT, former owner of Cecil and Street One, among others, but the most logical candidate is BTX Group, the holding company behind textile brands such as Brandtex and Signature.
“This focuses mainly on an older audience. Because most department stores are rejuvenating their image, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to sell their brands there. With e5 Mode, they would have their own sales outlets and a new market for their products,” Van Heuven says. "That would make it a smart move.”
Ronald Boeckx, former CEO at e5 Mode, also sees the potential of this somewhat older target group. “Consumers over 50 should not be underestimated as a target group. There are few alternatives for these customers, especially if you want quality fashion without paying for expensive brands. E5 Mode has an incredible and loyal customer base.” According to him, there are still plenty of opportunities for the struggling retail chain: "Between 2009 and 2015, we grew the brand from 70 to 95 million euros, even though times were not easy then either.”