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Growing strong

Portrait

Clothing, shoes and leather goods – these have always been Vivarte’s main fields of activity. Over many years, the company has gained an excellent reputation all over France with well-known brands such as André, Caroll, Naf Naf, Kookaï, Chevignon and others.

The company is the French market leader when it comes to shoes and is long-established in unique downtown locations through its André shoe store chain. Due to the development of an extensive network of suburban footwear and clothing outlets, it has gained a pioneering reputation.

The company’s roots date back to 1894, when Albert Lévy established a shoe factory in Nancy. His shoes were elegant and affordable – a concept that soon paid off. Since 1904, many André shops have opened their doors – for instance in Paris, Lyon, Marseille and Bordeaux.

When the founder’s sons Albert and Jérôme followed in their father’s footsteps, they further pushed the company’s expansive development. In 1960, three production plants and 150 shops underpinned the company’s prominent market position.

In the 1980s, André continued acquiring carefully selected brands and additionally created the Halle aux chaussures and the Halle aux Vêtements in 1984 – a milestone in the company’s history. After the integration of brands such as Caroll and Kookaï and the opening of an André shop in Japan, the company changed its name to Vivarte in 2001.

After years of continual success, Vivarte eventually faced serious problems. “The company was deeply affected by the economic crisis and needed to close down many shops,” explains Massimiliano Messina, Chief Operating Officer. “Due to fierce competition, sales dropped significantly, and in 2014 major restructuring was unavoidable. I am a member of the new management team which works on new business strategies. We think carefully about where we want to go and how to achieve our goals. Luckily, we have well-established brands, loyal customers and fundamental know-how and expertise. Our main goal is to develop long-term, sustainable solutions and not temporary ones.”

Today, Vivarte has 18,000 employees and a turnover of 2.5 billion EUR. Around 5% of sales are made up by export. “In Spain, our shoe brand Merkal is very strong,” says Mr. Messina. “We are very happy with the market situation in Spain and are going to continue to invest there. However, to date we have no plans to strengthen our international presence. First of all, we want to concentrate on the French market.”

Vivarte is sure that the focus on core competences will help to consolidate the business. André is a well-established shoe brand in France; Caroll is performing well.; Kookaï had some difficulties recently but will be reorganized.

“With our brands we focus on active women and their families,” states Mr. Messina. “We offer affordable prices and can count on confident and loyal customers. Now, it is up to us to further strengthen the DNA of our brands and to lure back customers that have left. We are known for offering quality for a good price – in today’s market this is more important than ever. We want to increase sales and profitability. However, we do not want to grow at any price but in a healthy and sustainable way. Working with a portfolio of 14 different brands is a complex, global project. But we are going to install modern structures and processes and are confident of regaining our former strength. As soon as our new collections are presented in the shops, which will be within the next couple of months, we will see if our concept is successful. However, as explained, we focus on sustainability, and we are aware that this needs time. Everyone is doing his best to lead Vivarte into a bright future. Our strong brands and the exceptional creativity of the entire group build a solid basis to face upcoming challenges.”

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