French fashion group Vivarte to also sell San Marina, Minelli, Cosmoparis

Nearly a year ago, French fashion group Vivarte was heralding a future built around the solid base of its five retail chains - La Halle, Caroll, San Marina, Minelli and Cosmoparis - after it sold in succession André, Naf Naf, Besson and, more recently, Chevignon. It was a pool of brands which the group, led by Patrick Puy, insisted would remain its cornerstone. On Monday however, according to FashionNetwork.com sources, Vivarte officially informed the employee representatives of San Marina, Minelli and Cosmoparis that the three footwear retailers are up for sale.


Inside the Minelli store on avenue Victor-Hugo, Paris - Minelli

This doesn’t come as a surprise, said a union representative for San Marina. In 2018, the 200-store-plus footwear retailer, founded near Marseilles in 1981 and bought by Vivarte in 2001, had already put up for sale its headquarters in an effort to optimise its financial position. In October, San Marina hired a new CEO, Laurent Portella, who will oversee the change in ownership. The second footwear retailer involved, Cosmoparis, is an offshoot of San Marina, first set up 30 years ago and independent since 2008. It is a more directional label, operating about fifteen monobrand stores and a series of department store concessions.

As for Minelli, it too is a significant player on the French footwear retail landscape, with 220 monobrand stores. It was founded in 1973, and last year it staked out a more feminist-inspired brand territory with shoes priced a little higher, at about €100 per pair.

In the press release which made the prospective sale of the three brands official, Vivarte stated that the decision stems from “the weak market situation for apparel and footwear, and it is designed to ensure the most favourable conditions for the sustainable growth of all the retail chains, the brands and the jobs that go with them, enabling each [chain] to benefit from the investment it needs.” The three retailers are expected to be sold during 2019, in three separate operations.

Once these sales will go through, assuming buyers will be found, Vivarte will remain with two assets only. “Vivarte will then be able to fully support and broaden the efforts it has already undertaken to relaunch its two main brands, La Halle and Caroll,” said Patrick Puy. But for them too nothing seems to be set in stone. By next year, with debt repayment deadlines looming, they may well change hands, making the dismantlement of this once-bright prospect of the French apparel and footwear industry complete. A Vivarte board meeting is scheduled on November 6, and it may shed more light on the group’s waning fortunes.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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