Largest Swiss department store chain: Manor is about to be sold

Manor is said to be up for sale

Published: 01/20/2023, 18:22

A bang in the Swiss department store business: The Maus-Frères Group from Geneva is said to be looking for a buyer for its Manor department store chain. The “Handelzeitung” reported on Fridaywhich is based on «five independent sources».

One of the sources is quoted as saying that the Manor has been for sale for some time. The dossier was already available before the pandemic and has been circulating again for a few months. Another source, described by the newspaper as an “insider,” says the sale will hit the home straight these days. Coop is mentioned as a possible buyer, although the retail giant denies this.

Manor is the largest Swiss department store group. It consists of 59 department stores, 27 Manor Food supermarkets and 24 Manor restaurants.

The boss wants to focus on consumer and luxury brands

An interview that Maus Frères boss Thierry Guibert gave to the Wall Street Journal a week ago supports the Handelszeitung report. Guibert has been head of Maus Frères for almost exactly two years and also runs their clothing brand Lacoste. Prior to that, he worked for 14 years as a top manager at the French luxury and consumer goods group Kering, formerly known as Pinault-Printemps-Redoute. During Guibert’s time, Kering gradually withdrew from the department store business (Printemps) and the mail order business (Pinault) in order to concentrate entirely on consumer and luxury brands.

Now he is apparently planning something similar at Maus Frères, as he confirmed to the Wall Street Journal. “It’s true that it looks very similar to Kering, just on a smaller scale,” he said. «We have sold almost all Swiss assets, and all for the mass market. We believed that value creation would come from brands and brand acquisitions.”

In an interview with the industry portal “Fashion Network”, also published a week ago, Guibert said that the Manor chain had recorded sales growth of 11 percent last year, while the fashion and sports brands from Maus Frères grew by almost 20 percent. Maus Frères owns the fashion brands Lacoste, Gant, Aigle and The Kooples as well as the tennis outfitter Tecnifibre.

Significantly lost sales and market share

Maus Frères and Manor have been in crisis for years. The group, which is owned by the extremely wealthy and extremely secretive Maus and Nordmann families, gradually sold large parts of its business, including Citydisc (music and media), Electroplus (consumer electronics), Jeans & Co. (fashion), Fly (furniture). ), Athleticum (sports stores) and Jumbo (DIY stores). In return, she gradually bought higher quality fashion brands.

The business magazine “Bilanz” has estimated the assets of the Maus and Nordmann families at 3 to 3.5 billion francs for years. But in 2018 the “SonntagsZeitung” wrote that there were many indications that the main shareholders of Maus Frères were already better off financially. Because in the core business with the ailing department stores, things are anything but smooth.

The Manor chain has been losing sales for years. At the best of times, it was more than 2.5 billion Swiss francs. Manor published figures for the last time in 2017. Sales fell by 2.9 percent, which means that the department store group lost significant market share. Since then it should have shrunk significantly – not only because the flagship on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse had to close after years of litigation.

The zeitgeist speaks against the good old department store

Manor suffers from a multitude of problems. First, the chain is in the mid-price segment and earns the lion’s share from fashion. But it is precisely this business that has come under the most pressure in recent years, as customers are increasingly shopping online, including abroad. Secondly, many Manor department stores are not in prime locations and do not show sufficient profitability. Third, Manor has long neglected online trading. Fourth, the zeitgeist speaks against the good old department store that functions like a general store. Stores that only offer a few high-quality brands – or even only one, are in demand.

Manor celebrated its 120th anniversary last year. The chain was founded by Léon Nordmann and the brothers Ernest and Henri Maus. The two brothers ran a textile wholesale business, and Nordmann was one of their customers with his small clothing store. In 1902 they founded the Léon Nordmann department store together in Lucerne – that was the birth of the Manor Group.

They then founded department store branches across the country under names such as Vilan, Placette, Innovazione and Rheinbrücke. It was not until 1994 that all associated department stores in German-speaking Switzerland appeared under the uniform name of Manor, as did those in western Switzerland and Ticino from 2000.

Peter Burkhardt is head of the business department at Tamedia. The historian and political scientist has been working as a journalist since he was 18 years old.More info

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The article is in German

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