Kooples

Hot French fashion chain The Kooples is the latest “affordable luxury” property to get private equity players into a lather.

PARIS — Hot French fashion chain The Kooples is the latest “affordable luxury” property to get private equity players into a lather.

This story first appeared in the April 3, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

According to sources, General Atlantic’s chief executive officer William E. Ford met with Kooples executives in Paris last month, and private equity fund Permira has also kicked the tires.

Reached on Thursday, Kooples ceo Nicolas Dreyfus told WWD he has met with many private equity funds that are attracted by the retailer’s strong results and growth prospects, confirming the meetings with General Atlantic and Permira. But he said there is no official sale process and no bank has been given a mandate to explore a possible sale.

Founded in 2008 by brothers Alexandre, Laurent and Raphael Elicha, The Kooples is ramping up expansion in the U.S. and tracking double-digit growth.

In a recent interview, Dreyfus said the brand was logging same-store sales growth of 9 percent in the U.S. and the brand was on track to finish its fiscal year ending Aug. 31 with sales of $28 million in the U.S. and Canada.

The company is forecasting total sales of 220 million euros, or $267.4 million at current exchange, this fiscal year, which represents 20 percent growth year-on-year in reported terms and a same-store sales increase of 9 percent.

Dreyfus predicted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 38 million euros, or $46.2 million, for the period, and this will help fund the firm’s expansion.

In 2011, the Elichas sold a 20 percent stake in the company’s capital to private equity fund LBO France, the first of many transactions involving fast-growing French labels with a high fashion quotient and an “affordable luxury” positioning.

LBO declined to comment Thursday. It is understood the fund has also received expressions of interest, but not launched any formal process.

TA Associates acquired a 30 percent stake in Zadig & Voltaire in 2012, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. bought a 65 percent stake in SMCP, parent of the Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot chains, in 2013, signaling heightened investor interest in the segment.

Alongside BDT Capital Partners, General Atlantic made a minority investment in Tory Burch, an American fashion brand with attainable positioning, in late 2012.

The Kooples recently opened its fifth American boutique on SoHo’s Mercer Street, its second store in New York. The brand — whose preppy clothes have a rock ’n’ roll slant and are aimed at couples — is also carried by Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, as well as specialty stores.

The Kooples operates about 150 wholly owned stores in Europe and boasts a total of 360 sales points worldwide.

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