Via Financial Times

The Swiss family behind apparel company Lacoste is scouting for acquisitions to add to its portfolio of sportswear and “affordable luxury” brands after enjoying a period of strong growth.

Thierry Guibert, head of the international business of Maus Frères SA and chief executive of its biggest brand Lacoste, said in an interview that the Maus family had charged him with growing the apparel business. 

“Our brands have a lot of potential and the group wants to go on the offensive again,” he said, adding that it had considerable firepower since was it debt-free. “There is a desire to reinforce our portfolio of brands.” 

The subsidiary that Mr Guibert leads — recognisable by its green crocodile logo — now accounts for about 60 per cent of the roughly €5bn in revenue earned annually by Maus Frères SA. This makes it bigger than the retail outlets in Switzerland, including Manor department stores and DIY chain Jumbo, which are the historical roots of the group.

Unlike the department store business, where revenue is under pressure as more people shop online, the apparel business has been growing steadily, bucking the wider malaise in middle-market fashion. As well as Lacoste, the Maus family group also owns clothing brands Gant and Aigle, which it bought in 2008 and 2003, respectively, and the Kooples — bought last year.

Chart showing Lacoste is Maus Freres biggest brand

Lacoste has emerged as the group’s main growth driver over the past few years. By taking many licensing deals in-house and attempting to revitalise the brand after Mr Guibert took over in 2015, Lacoste has grown 42 per cent since 2016 to reach €2bn in sales. 

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Founded in 1933 by two tennis players, Lacoste sells clothing, shoes, and accessories for use both on and off the court, and has a partnership to sell apparel at the Olympic Games. 

“Lacoste has won back a younger clientele after falling off their radar for awhile,” said Mr Guibert. Partnerships with American skateboarding brand Supreme and rapper Tyler the Creator have helped boost visibility outside the tennis-playing set, he added. Shoe sales have also grown considerably since Lacoste stopped licensing out the activity.

As it hunts for expansion opportunities, the business led by Mr Guibert is changing its name from Maus Frères International to MF Brands Group. He is looking to acquire brands that are already positioned in the premium segment, with around €200m to €300m in sales.

“We are looking for brands that have a capacity to transcend borders and be desirable anywhere, and that can be in clothing or even in objects for the home,” said Mr Guibert. “Kooples is the perfect example: we think we can double sales to €400m or so in the coming years by expanding in Asia and elsewhere.”