PARIS — The future looks uncertain for Desseilles, one of only three remaining major lacemakers in Calais, in northern France.
Last Thursday the company, which supplies lace to brands including Chantelle, Lise Charmel, La Perla and Chinese brand Aimer, was given three weeks by the commercial tribunal in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, before being placed into liquidation.
The commercial climate for lingerie has done nothing to help the company, which saw sales decline in 2015 by 20 percent to 7 million euros, or $7.8 million at average exchange, according to president Jean-Louis Dussart, one of three former managers who acquired Desseilles in partnership with fellow lacemakers Solstiss and Bracq in 2011.
But its woes have been exacerbated by the forced reintegration of three former unionized employees dismissed for economic reasons in 2013, which Dussart estimates will cost the firm between 600,000 euros and 1 million euros, or $660,000 and $1.1 million at current exchange. “We were not able to pay our employees at the end of February, so the tribunal pronounced the liquidation,” said Dussart.
In 2015, Desseilles received an investment of 300,000 euros, or $330,000, from a Chinese company that wished to take a minority stake in the firm in order to keep it afloat, Dussart explained. “It was intended to help us to maintain liquidity during a difficult period, and the company was prepared to invest up to 1 million euros in total,” said Dussart.
Before the Feb. 29 deadline specified by the commercial court for takeover offers, it received a letter of intent from a listed Chinese firm that wishes to acquire Desseilles once it has been liquidated. But that offer is dependent on not re-integrating the three employees, leading to a deadlock.
Additionally, administrators have now said they will extend this deadline to March 15, meaning other companies may bid. One firm that has taken an interest is compatriot Sophie Hallette, Dussart said.
Representatives of Sophie Hallette declined to comment.
“The Chinese investor is not happy about this,” said Dussart. “Today, Dusseilles’ future is suspended, and there is now a problem of trust with the potential investor. All our employees back the Chinese offer, and have no desire to see the former employees reintegrated.”
Desseilles has 74 employees.
With Codentel and Noyon, it makes up the only remaining industrial lacemakers in Calais, famous for its Leavers lace. The former entered receivership in December, and is likely to be placed in liquidation within a month, according to reports.
“Noyon is suffering too,” said Dussart. “We could be nearing the end of lacemaking in Calais.”