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Claes Retail Group improves profits despite flat sales

Claes Retail Group improves profits despite flat sales

The Belgian Claes Retail Group (CRG) has achieved stable sales in 2023, despite difficult conditions in the retail sector. However, the group above fashion chains CKS, JBC and Mayerline did manage to boost its profits.

Planning and efficiency

“We look back with mixed feelings on a year full of challenges for our industry. Despite persistent inflation, volatile seasons and increasing international competition, we recorded notable financial improvements”, CEO Bart Claes said.

Total sales remained stagnant at 238.9 million euros, but EBITDA almost doubled to 10.1 million euros and EBIT went from 0.7 million euros below zero to 0.7 million euros in the plus. This is due to CRG’s efforts to optimise operations and control costs, Claes explains: the family-owned company focused on improved inventory planning and efficiency last year.

Nevertheless, CRG continues to invest, especially in customer experience and sustainability. In December last year, the group opened a first shop where all three brands (CKS, JBC and Mayerline) were united under one roof. Located in Zonhoven, CRG aims to be able to serve all members of the families together there.

Clothing to pass on

In its annual report, CRG pays extra attention to sustainable initiatives. In 2023, the clothing group proposed its revamped sustainability strategy ‘Pass it On’. Central to this is the idea that people should be able to pass on their clothes if they no longer can or want to wear them themselves.

“That is why we always invest in the quality of our clothes”, co-CEO Ann Claes explains. By 2030, Claes Retail Group aims to replace all of its most commonly used materials with more sustainable alternatives. “Finally, we will continue to raise awareness among consumers to pass on our quality clothing through our initiatives such as retouching events, second-hand corners and collection boxes and that in all our shops.”

Policy needed

The collection boxes at JBC have already yielded 87.9 tonnes of returned clothing, 94 % of which was reused or recycled. The brand also opened its own second-hand shop in Olen. At CKS, a rental service was launched, while Mayerline got maintenance corners.

The fashion group’s focus on sustainability does include a jab at Shein: the group stresses that the influx of cheap clothes from abroad have an impact on the Belgian fashion sector, which is striving to make clothes last longer. Bart Claes calls on entrepreneurs and organisations, but certainly also policymakers, to make policy adjustments. “If we want to make further steps in local, quality and affordable fashion with a longer lifespan, changes will also have to be made at the policy level to keep it feasible and affordable.”

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