The fashion market is overcrowded, but Belgian retail group Yonderland (Juttu, A.S.Adventure) is returning to growth in every country thanks to its outdoor offering.
Challenges in France
After some tough pandemic years, when the banks took control due to outstanding debts, Yonderland has returned to growth. Last year, the group’s EBITDA reached a record of 53.5 million euros, corresponding to a margin of 9 %. Managing director Frédéric Hufkens hopes to continue on this path, he told Belgian newspaper De Tijd.
The group currently has 190 shops in five countries, including the Bever outdoor chain in the Netherlands, but wants to continue its expansion. Bever wants to add half a dozen seven shops, while A.S.Adventure aims to grow on the difficult French market. The chain’s ambition was to have fifty stores there, but today it has just three. Still, Hufkens believes it has a growing understanding of local needs.
Too many fashion chains
In Belgium, A.S.Adventure is experimenting with other shop formats: from moving to larger premises (around 2,000 sqm) to trialling smaller concepts as well. According to Hufkens, Juttu can still grow from the existing nine shops to fifteen. The chain is looking for locations in Mechelen, Ostend and even the Netherlands, among others.
The CEO also points out some difficulties on the Belgian market, sigh as rent prices that have remained too high after the pandemic and an oversaturated and shrinking fashion market in Belgium. “I fear that more chains will disappear, but we have the advantage of being able to play on the ratio between outdoor and leisure fashion”, Hufkens said.
In the fashion sector, “there is not a ton of money to be made”, but the key is to keep investing. Yonderland says it reinvests 60 % of its recurring operating cash flow each year and does not pay dividends. The latter, in particular, is exceptional for a company whose majority shareholder is a private equity group (PAI). Hufkens’ focus on sustainability and the long term is also unusual in this context. Nevertheless, the CEO is aware that the company will inevitably be sold in the future.