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Pimkie plans to close 36 additional stores and further job cuts

“It’s sad for my little girls who love this store,” regrets Dolores in a Facebook post.

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Pimkie plans to close 36 additional stores and further job cuts

“It’s sad for my little girls who love this store,” regrets Dolores in a Facebook post. Pimkie, the iconic ready-to-wear brand aimed at 15-25 year olds, finds itself once again in turmoil. Committed to a transformation plan “aimed at sustaining its activity and returning to growth” since February, the company announces that it is considering the closure of 36 additional stores in 2024, in addition to the 38 closures planned by the first plan. In total, 74 Pimkie stores are expected to close their doors this year, leading to the elimination of 372 in-store positions. 42 positions will also be sacrificed at the Pimkie head office, which has just over 140 employees.

The news, revealed at the end of a meeting to present the job protection plan, demonstrates the company's difficulties in following the initial schedule of its initial restructuring plan. “Pimkie is forced to accelerate its savings plan,” admits the company, citing “the economic context, inflation, and a drop in attendance at points of sale” in recent months. “We didn’t expect it,” notes, sadly, Marie-Annick Merceur, member of the CFDT Pimkie.

Also read: Camaïeu, Pimkie, Burton… The endless falling of the curtain on ready-to-wear brands

Throughout 2023, which will remain historically disastrous for French ready-to-wear, Pimkie had already worked to skim its network. As early as June, the brand unveiled the outlines of its transformation plan, announcing the closure of 63 stores and the elimination of 257 positions by 2027. As of December 31, 2023, 23 stores had already lowered the curtain, out of the 196 that still counts the sign. Added to this are “80 franchise/affiliation stores in France and 71 stores internationally”, specifies the group in Le Figaro.

The pill is all the harder to swallow for employees since Pimkie had been able to build a solid reputation over the years. Created in 1971, “Pimckie” was first established in the city center of Lille and specialized in women’s pants. Over the years, “Pimckie” became “Pimkie” and moved towards the fashion of adolescents and young adults, between 15 and 25 years old. At its head, the Mulliez Family Association (AFM), which began to experience its first difficulties with Pimkie from the end of 2009. In December, employees went on strike to protest against the accompanying measures of the 1900 social plan. employees. If they reach an agreement with management seven months later, the group is not at the end of its troubles.

In 2021, the Belgian and Swiss subsidiaries were declared bankrupt. The Mulliez family then decided to separate from Pimkie and sold its activity in 2022 to the Pimkinvest consortium, made up of Lee Cooper, entrepreneur Salih Halassi and the Turkish group Ibisler Tekstil. If a new general director, Sandrine Lilienfeld, had taken the helm of the group in February 2023, she ultimately only stayed five months, before being replaced by Élodie Chelle, appointed deputy general director. In a LinkedIn post, Sandrine Lilienfeld justifies “the shortest adventure of [her] career” by “a very different point of view from shareholders on the recovery of the company”, “opposing managerial values” and “visions of the irreconcilable world.

Incomprehensions which were also felt by employees. “When the consortium bought the company, we estimated the number of store closures at around a hundred,” explains Marie-Annick Merceur. So we were surprised when it dropped to 63.” In hindsight, “it was a bad decision not to close more stores, they were too fast”. “Some were really in the negative and yet were left open”, specifies the elected CFDT, who adds that with “the closures, rents and salaries had to be recovered but the turnover, for its part, did not didn’t move.” “It’s the snake that bites its tail,” she whispers. We have the impression that they are navigating by sight, that makes us uncomfortable.”

Also read: Pimkie: the brand in difficulty appoints the former CEO of Camaïeu as its head

The CFDT representative admits, “we no longer have the clothing supply we need and we are having trouble winning back our customers.” Some stores still continue to hold on and publish photos and messages on social networks. “All stores have an Instagram account, which we try to keep alive,” explains Marie-Annick Merceur. This is for example the case of the Sisteron store in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence which shared this message a week ago: “That’s it! A new year begins…it’s time to take care of yourself! And what better way to take advantage of the sales to renew your wardrobe! Come quickly to the store to benefit from a reduction of up to -60%.”

Will Pimkie rise from the ashes? Forced to downsize, the brand still wishes to “diversify its activity”, by affiliating 14 stores in its network to the Chinese accessories chain Miniso, present in France since 2021. This association will preserve 96 positions of the PES. Anxious to save the furniture, Pimkie management also hopes that this bad patch will ultimately bring new life to the company. “Our transformation plan aims to reinvent the Pimkie experience and work on its desirability among 18-25 year olds. A new store concept will open in the coming weeks,” promises Elodie Chelle, Deputy General Manager of Pimkie, in a press release.

An enthusiasm which now gives way to fear, for the group's 1,300 employees. Marie-Annick Merceur hopes that this PSE will be the last, otherwise the brand risks ending up in receivership. Pimkie is not the only brand to experience difficulties, and thus joins Camaïeu, Burton, André, Don’t Call Me Jennyfer, Du Pareil au Meilleur and Naf Naf. These brands, launched before the 2000s, are facing a crisis in French clothing due to setbacks linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, followed by inflation, rising costs of energy, raw materials, rents and increased competition with fast fashion. It remains to be seen whether Pimkie will manage to keep his head above water and avoid the fashion grim reaper.

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