France's Chargeurs acquires Cambridge Satchel Company
With its core product being based on a traditional British school bag, Cambridge Satchel is the second UK accessories brand the French business has acquired recently. Last year it bought Swaine — a manufacturer and supplier of luxury leather goods, umbrellas and hats — and it clearly sees synergies between these heritage operations.
Ahead of the Chargers announcement, loss-making Cambridge Satchel, whose latest accounts are several months overdue, had filed a number of documents at Companies House that showed major change at the top of the business.
Founder Julie Deane, who previously held a controlling stake, ceased to be “a person with significant control” on 2 August. At the same time, three directors stepped down. And senior Chargeurs insiders Yann Delmas and Carine De Koenigswater were both appointed as directors. Deane also remains a director.
Chargetex 39 SARL now holds “directly or indirectly, 75% or more of the shares in the company”.
The British firm, which built up a celebrity following (as well as spurring a number of imitators) was founded by Deane in 2008 with a budget of just £600 as she sought a way to pay school fees.
As the business grew, she made the most of social media’s ability to drive product sales and opened a store with a basement area where fashion bloggers could work.
She also launched collabs with numerous external labels such as Comme des Garçons and Vivienne Westwood.
But the company last made a profit and 2014 and its last set of results showed it losing almost £2 million.
Deane brought in private equity backers while remaining the controlling shareholder, but the company has been challenged in recent periods. Yet with the backing of Chargeurs, it has a deep-pocketed group behind it with the French firm operating in 90 countries and recording revenue of almost £700 million.
The acquisitive French company said it will make the most of the ‘Made In Britain’ profile of the company and that with its new purchase’s brand visibility and digital expertise, it sees strong potential for the “premiumisation and international expansion” of the label. Cambridge Satchel’s assets will also help it with its Swaine expansion.
Chargeurs said that all of its “strengths make Satchel a high-profile brand with considerable potential to move upmarket”.
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