The year has started remarkably badly for French fashion retail: familiar names like Camaïeu, Go Sport, Pimkie, Kookaï and Cop.Copine recently went bankrupt or are undergoing judicial reorganisation. What is going on?
No improvement in sight
Last autumn, French fashion brand Camaïeu was declared bankrupt after an unsuccessful relaunch: 511 stores and 2,600 jobs were lost in France – in Belgium, the brand had left earlier. Meanwhile, it looks very much as if the end of the fashion chain was just the harbinger for a long series of bankruptcies and restructurings in the French fashion sector: familiar and established names are going down one by one, with no improvement in sight.
Ailing Pimkie, for example, whose Belgian division went bankrupt back in 2021, has been up for sale since last year and is now coming into the hands of a consortium of three fashion companies: Lee Cooper France, Kindy and Turkish manufacturer Ibisler Tekstil. At least 100 shops and 500 jobs are scheduled to disappear, and it might become worse: unions have the gravest doubts about the buyers’ business plan.
In January, Go Sport was put into administration. The sports chain with 223 stores and 2,160 employees, which has been owned by the Hermione People & Brands (HPB) group since 2021, has been experiencing financial problems for some time and saw turnover fall from 430 million euros in 2018 to 300 million euros in 2021. Each year’s losses amounted to tens of millions. The company now has six months to turn the tide or find an acquirer.
Since 1 February, fashion chain Kookaï, which accounts for 121 stores and 320 employees, has suffered the same fate. The retailer, owned by Australian Rob Cromb, wants to take advantage of the reorganisation to put its financial situation in order and roll out a new strategy. Shoe chain André, which has 70 stores and 280 employees, is also now in administration.
Mid-market segment under pressure
A judicial reorganisation is often just the prelude to bankruptcy, as evidenced by the fate of fashion chain Cop.Copine, which could not find a buyer and therefore ceases to exist, although 23 of its 48 stores were saved by sector peer Antonelle. Shoe chain San Marina is also heading for bankruptcy, which means end of story for 163 stores and 600 employees.
The French chains are simply not up to the growth of e-commerce, fast-fashion and second-hand, experts say. They have stuck to their traditional business model and collections for too long, causing younger customers to drop out, preferring H&M, Zara, Primark or Shein. The mid-market segment is under pressure everywhere, while discounters and luxury brands are growing.
No chance of survival
Meanwhile, while costs for wages, logistics and energy have risen sharply, traffic in shopping streets and malls is falling. Consumers are keeping their fingers crossed – and all of this after a pandemic that has not yet been fully digested. The chains need expect little salvation from buyers, retail expert Frédéric Boublil tells capital.fr: “Investors no longer believe in the survival of these brands. The landscape will continue to reshuffle. This will happen quickly and massively.”
Of course, this reshaping of the fashion landscape is not an exclusively French problem: fashion chains elsewhere also have to drastically reinvent themselves if they want to survive. Just think of the successive restructurings at C&A, which is working on a strategic turnaround.