From Belfort to Tarbes, twenty-six cities are worried about the survival of their Galeries Lafayette stores


  The entrance to Galeries Lafayette in Nantes, March 2, 2023.

In the shoe section of the Nouvelles Galeries de Belfort, “there is not much left to sell”, deplores Laurence Rufols, employee of this store operated since 2018 by Hermione Retail, a subsidiary of Financière immobilière bordelaise (FIB), created by businessman Michel Ohayon. The Belfortain store has not been delivered spring-summer collections, in particular by Galeries Lafayette, its franchisor and logistician. “None have been”says a staff member, in early March.

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In great financial difficulty, the twenty-six stores of Hermione Retail were placed in safeguard proceedings, at the request of its shareholder, with the Commercial Court of Bordeaux, on February 22. Executives, employees and demonstrators of the sign now dread the hearing scheduled for April 19. To the judges, the leaders of Hermione Retail will then present “certified accounts and a cash flow forecast”declares a spokesperson, specifying that this deadline will not be a “cleaver meeting” devoted to the pursuit of activity or the opening of a disposal plan.

However, staff representatives have been on the alert since the end of 2022. According to an expert report drawn up for the Social and Economic Committee, Hermione Retail was in cessation of payments in mid-December. The company faces a liability “which far exceeds the cash available”, according to this analysis. At that time, Hermione Retail owed 35 million euros to its suppliers, including 25 million to Galeries Lafayette, which sold it fashion collections and invoiced it for logistics and delivery services.

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The amount of this unpaid “has now reached 30 million euros”, underlines an elected CFDT. However, the brand has agreed to a moratorium. Asked about this, the distributor headed by Nicolas Houzé did not wish to comment on this information. Hermione Retail, its franchisee, denies him, “formally” that the company is insolvent. Especially since the court validated the opening of the safeguard procedure, conditioned precisely on the non-state of cessation of payments.

The elected staff (1,109 employees) fear a social breakdown. “I don’t have many illusions anymore. The New Galleries de Belfort, it is the most dilapidated store in the chain”observes Rufols. This point of sale had escaped the two waves of closure of Nouvelles Galeries and Galeries Lafayette stores.

“There is reason to be worried about city centers”

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