The Nordic prêt-à-porter brand Camaïeu declared itself to “stop payments” and filed for bankruptcy administration this Wednesday. 2,600 employees are waiting.
how did we get here
” Camaïeu’s request is motivated by an acceleration of the company’s difficulties and, in particular, by the consequences “from a judgment of the Court of Cassation of 30. Denying traders the lower Covid-time rents “, explains the management in a press release. A management that will not speak further before the final judgment of the Commercial Court, but specifies that the main objective of Camaïeu’s request is ” Maintaining the sustainability of the company “.
Camaïeu was already in a difficult situation related to the health crisis when, in August 2020, it was acquired by Financière immobilière bordelaise, which incorporated it into its commercial division Hermione People & Brand (HP&B), and continued to accumulate difficulties.
In particular, a cyber attack in June 2021 that blocked the IT system and logistics for four months and caused damage of 40 million euros. In a recent interview with LSA magazine, Wilhelm Hubner, President of HP&B and Camaïeu (and former Managing Director of Auchan Retail France) explained that the decision was then ” into the fray on the issue of commercial leases “. A showdown has begun with the landlords of large shopping centers, which has led to almost half of the shops operating in France not paying the rent.
But the decision of the Court of Cassation on June 30 demands rent payments and puts an end to attempts to negotiate. Faced with this mountain of debt, Camaïeu has therefore decided to place itself under receivership.
Bad strategic decisions are at the root of the situation for the unions. ” For months we have been denouncing the shareholder’s decision not to pay the landlords anymoreexplains Lucie Colier, CGT delegate at the Roubaix camp. They believed that the Court of Cassation would rule in our favor, which is not the case. Like two years ago, we are in receivership where we fear store closures and layoffs for staff who often have 25 to 30 years of service. »
For Thierry Siwik, also from the CGT, “ there are between 5 and 7 million euros late rent that has to be paid monthly for almost 250 branches. Since we belong to a group that represents 2 billion euros in assets, this debt would have to be borne by the shareholder. »
“It doesn’t matter to us whether we want to build a group. However, all of this seems to be happening too quickly, because it takes financing and investments to get companies into trouble. »
In this case, investor Michel Ohayon’s FIB dragged itself into a “redemption frenzy” for a number of years. Within a few years, HP&B, the group’s commercial and distribution subsidiary, acquired Galeries Lafayette in the provinces, La Grande Récré, Camaïeu, Gap France, Go Sport, Cafés Legal and even recently participated in the acquisition of PicWic.Toys.
” The fact that we want to build a group doesn’t bother usbelieves Thierry Siwik. However, all of this seems to be happening too quickly, because it takes financing and investments to get companies into trouble. This seems too fast for us to consolidate the results. »
As of August 2020, FIB had acquired 511 of Camaïeu’s 634 stores in France and 2,600 of more than 3,100 employees and launched a transformation plan. The aim of the new management, led by Wilhelm Hübner, was to get back into balance and to achieve the sales of 2019 again in 2023, i.e. 570 million euros (after only 340 million in 2021).
And now ?
For Éric Feldmann, President of the Commercial Court of Lille Métropole, the administration of bankruptcy and therefore the protection of the court allows ” passive freeze » the time to find a solution.
” The current application concerns receivership with a continuation plan that provides for the repayment of the debt over 10 years. If this is not possible, there may be a sale plan, like two years ago, with the search for a buyer. If there is no other solution, the final decision is judicial liquidation. “.
But we are not there, the continuation plan that the group wants to present is to allow ” the sustainability of the company », and to maintain employment as much as possible with possible synergies within the different brands of the group.
Given the economic and social issues of the case, the Lille Commercial Court will take a few days before holding its deliberations.