Jul 18, 2018
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French women's retailer Jennyfer bought by investors led by Sébastien Bismuth

Jul 18, 2018

Last May, French womenswear retailer Jennyfer went through a troubled patch and announced it was looking for a new shareholder. The search is now over, as a consortium of international investors from the fashion and digital industries, led by Sébastien Bismuth, a director at lingerie label Undiz between 2012 and 2018, has acquired a stake in the firm. The other investors’ names were not disclosed, nor was the value of the stake acquired, though the group is now a majority shareholder in the company founded in 1985.

Sébastien Bismuth

From September, lead investor Sébastien Bismuth, 45, will become CEO. A press release stated that Jennyfer’s original shareholders, the Grosman brothers (owners of menswear chain Celio), who held a majority stake, and the label’s founders David Tordjman and Gérard Depagnat, retain a minority interest, but its value was not specified.

Bismuth, who launched accessories chain Moa with Cyrille Tarica in 2002, wants to turn Jennyfer into a “new kind of retailer,” with the ambition of making the brand, initially a brick-and-mortar player, nothing less than “the digital platform for France’s young women.” This will require “the creation of a media brand, the integration of digital tools from the start of the product development process, and strongly complementary, interlinked physical and virtual stores.”

The new boss is happy “to lead the transformation of Jennyfer, which is set to become the embodiment of contemporary young women,” saying that “independent, festive and carefree, Jennyfer will shift from #wearejennyfer to #wearedigital.” But the new project raises the question of whether the brand’s store network will remain as it is. 

In April, Jennyfer reorganisation specialist Michel Maire CEO. The brand operates 550 stores worldwide, of which 348 are located in France (of these, 188 are directly owned). Jennyfer has 1,700 employees and suffered a sales slump in recent months, notably pointing the finger at “disappointing end-of-season sales, the vagaries of last winter’s weather and a series of strikes.”

A Jennyfer store featuring the brand’s latest interior design

As Maire told FashionNetwork.com in May, “[Jennyfer] needs to generate more cash flow in order to upgrade its store network... Like other retailers, it suffers from poor customer loyalty, and the trend for lower prices is now entrenched in this highly competitive sector.”

In recent seasons, it tried to target a slightly different consumer segment, shifting away from teenagers to appeal increasingly to 20-somethings. Now it seems that the brand is again focusing on its original core target, 15-20-year-olds. Jennyfer’s collections are very much in sync with contemporary trends, with an emphasis on streetwear, and retail prices range from €15 for a T-shirt to €25 for sweaters or jeans and about €60 for jackets.

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