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500-Store French Retailer’s Liquidation Sacks 2,600

A French retailer has been ordered to liquidate after a commercial court declared its proposal to borrow 48 million euros ($47 million) from the state “unrealistic.”

Camaïeu, which has been in receivership since Aug. 1, will sing its swan song next Saturday, after which it will shutter its 500-plus stores and lay off its 2,600 employees. Trade unions estimate that some 5,000 people will be affected, since the company, which sold clothing under its own label, worked with an array of service providers.

All assets will be auctioned off to help pay the 240 million euro ($235 million) debt owed by the 40-year-old company, which in its heyday ran stores in 21 countries outside its homeland, including Belgium, Italy, Poland and Spain.

Hermione People & Brands, which acquired the chain in 2020, just before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, said it was willing to throw in 5 million euros ($4.9 million) as long as it also received government support. But the economic ministry denied the request, saying that the state could not “in any case, substitute itself for the shareholders.” The plan for the state to supply more than half of the 80 million euros ($78 million) required to bail Camaïeu out and pay for its upcoming spring collection would be “too risky,” it added.

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Hermione People & Brands also operates Gap in France.

“The takeover plan was very poorly prepared, with a business plan on just one page,” minister for industry Roland Lescure said after the ruling.

On Friday, the Camaïeu website was still up, although there is no longer an option to add items to the shopping cart. On the top of the homepage is a message: “Dear customer, we are temporarily forced to stop orders to guarantee a sufficient quality of service, please accept our apologies.”

The government has promised to provide financial support for the workers who will lose their jobs, but a poster hung by employees at the Gare Saint-Lazare train station summed up their feelings: “We are in mourning.”