Under receivership, the brand has opted to sacrifice its least profitable outlets in hopes of getting back on track. In the condemned shops, those responsible fluctuate between sadness and bitterness.
A curtain comes down, salespeople and customers in tears. It has been almost a year since the main French ready-to-wear brands divested their outlets, wiped out by a crisis to which they see no end. Following the liquidation of Camaïeu, announced at the end of September 2022, and the placement into receivership of Kookaï, Go Sport and André last winter, it is the turn of certain Naf Naf stores to close their stores. The 1990s flagship brand had been in receivership since September and had no choice but to sacrifice seventeen of its stores in the hope of getting back on track. “As much as we expect it, it’s heartbreaking when it happens», Sarah confides, still moved. This Parisian store manager welcomed her last customers last Saturday. “The management explained to us that these were outlets that did not contribute to the company’s turnover and that it was impossible to renegotiate the rental prices.», she reports bitterly.
Inflation and bad strategic choices
On the other side of France, Monia is also preparing for a permanent closure. His store, located in a small shopping center in Nice, will close in a few months, on January 31. “The big surprise is that we were given a few months’ extension‘ she smiled sadly. The thirty-year-old readily admits: this store, which she took over more than a year ago, has never broken sales records. “It is located at the end of the shopping center, surrounded by opticians and phone shops, it is not ideal for selling clothes…», she sighs. Inflation has finally dealt the final blow to the country. Since July, attendance has been in freefall. “The customers left and never came back‘, she summarizes. No more double-digit receipts either. “Purchasing power has declined in recent months, resulting in a drastic decline in the average basket“Monia explains.
In direct contact with the “ground», Store managers have formed their own ideas about the demise of the brand. “I think management made bad strategic choices», Sara begins. She worked at Naf Naf for thirteen years and was a union representative. She followed the company through its fluctuations: first within the Vivarte group, then under the Chinese consortium La Chapelle and finally in the portfolio of the Turkish Sy Corporate. “We lost many customers after the acquisition by SY, due to the new line adopted by management“, she believes. The former manager summarizes this new line in a few words: higher prices, lower quality. “In short, everything you shouldn’t do‘ she exclaims. In order to remain competitive, the brand has had the idea to increase promotions in recent years. “But it wasn’t the idea of the century either‘, Monia squeaks in turn. “Management wanted to satisfy customers at all costs, even if it meant that our cash flow was in trouble.», Breathes the Nice manager.
A structural crisis
The two managers agree on one point: the grass is not greener elsewhere. They know that the crisis facing French ready-to-wear is structural. “The consumption pattern has changed radically», Sarah emphasizes. “When I started, mid-range ready-to-wear was an extremely booming segment, today the opposite is the case», she sighs. “I started in the profession twenty years ago, when the internet did not yet exist. Shopping was in the store», Monia recalls. For the forty-year-old there is no doubt about it: it is the online trade that has emptied the stores. “The decline accelerated when Asos and SheIn arrived, the dates coincide, she exclaims. According to her, the sector is experiencing its swan song. “I really fear that within 10 to 20 years there will not be a single women’s clothing store in the city center…», she sighs.
It may not be necessary to wait that long. Burton, Jennyfer, Pimkie… The brands that are on a tightrope just like Naf Naf can no longer be counted. “I’m afraid we’ll be liquidated like Camaïeu. That is why I am in favor of the transfer», Sarah defends. So a new buyer. “I know this isn’t the silver bullet and there will be some damage, but at least the brand will survive…». Because Sarah is convinced: “SY Corporate’s recovery plan is not sustainable“.”How do you change a company of this size, when you only have twenty employees at the head office?“, she asks. She is also outraged by the delays in the payment of salaries, while many employees have still not received their wages from last month. “In the case of legal collection, the payment of salaries has priority. What we are experiencing at Naf Naf is unprecedented…», Storms the former Parisian manager.
A page is turning for Sarah and Monia, who will soon be fired by the brand. Far from Naf Naf… and far from ready-to-wear. “Although I have devoted ten years of my life to it, this field no longer interests me at all», assures Sarah, who is already preparing her professional conversion. “I loved the contact with customers, but the economic situation is too tough. Monia says with pain in her heart. More than the slow sales, it is the brand’s setbacks that have scarred the thirty-year-old brand. “Going into receivership is difficult for you, but also for your team. I don’t want to experience another one», she mutters, resigned to continuing her adventures in another professional sector.