French bargain chain Tati still without new owner

4th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 3 (AFP) - The future of French discount chain Tati, a retail institution known for bargain clothing, hung in the balance Tuesday as a Paris commercial court heard arguments as to who should take over the company.

PARIS, Aug 3 (AFP) - The future of French discount chain Tati, a retail institution known for bargain clothing, hung in the balance Tuesday as a Paris commercial court heard arguments as to who should take over the company.

Twelve firms have launched bids for the family-owned chain that was placed in receivership in September, but court administrators said only two offers were serious: one by the Asiatex group and a second by the Vetura group.

After the hearing, Tati lawyer Olivier Pardo said the court would name the winning bidder on Thursday.

Tati, founded in 1948 by Tunisian-born Jules Ouaki, began as a small shop on the boulevard Barbes in northern Paris, where the neighbourhood's mainly immigrant population rifled through messy bins in search of an unbeatable deal.

"My father was sensitive to the shame felt by all those of meagre means who never dared ask for a (lower) price due to fear of humiliation," Fabien Ouaki, the founder's son who took over the group in 1991, told Elle magazine in 1998.

Originally a purveyor of basics like underwear, sheets and lipstick, Tati later branched out to attract a more middle-class clientele, and designer Azzedine Alaia came up with tee-shirts, handbags and shoes for the company.

Alaia even used the store's signature rose and white gingham-check print in his own 1991 collection.

The group opened stores in Cameroon, Gabon and Ivory Coast, and had goods sold in department stores from Moscow to Beirut.

Tati then diversified, opening jewellery stores, wedding boutiques and travel agencies. "One in every 10 weddings sees a bride wearing a Tati gown," Jules Ouaki once said.

But eventually, the French company lost core customers to stores like the Gap and Hennes and Mauritz (H and M), which cater to a young, fashion-conscious clientele by offering trendy clothes at reasonable prices.

In August 2003, Tati succumbed to the economic pressure, filed a declaration of suspension of payments with a Paris commercial court and was placed in receivership.

Tati now has 29 stores and about 1,000 employees. It posted net losses of EUR 14 million (USD 16.9 million) for the 2003-04 business year that ended June 30, on sales of EUR 106 million.

A source close to the group said Tati's management would prefer it be taken over by the Vetura group and its Fabio Lucci label.

"To ensure the continuity of the business, it would be better to have a company that knows the trade rather than a company that only does import-export and has just 20 employees," the source told AFP.

Around 250 Tati employees from across France protested Tuesday outside the Paris courthouse, accusing Ouaki of abandoning them after leading bidders acknowledged plans to cut between 300 and 400 jobs.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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