Founders of French fashion and beauty e-tailer Place des Tendances leave the company

Christine Feuchot and Bertrand Rochebillard, co-founders and directors of French fashion and beauty e-tailer Place des Tendances, have stepped down from their roles, after ten years in business and five years since the website was bought by department store group Le Printemps. The news comes from FashionNetwork.com sources and was confirmed by Place des Tendances. Feuchot and Rochebillard’s departure coincides with an ongoing legal battle with the website’s current owners.


Paolo De Cesare, centre, with Christine Feuchot and Bertrand Rochebillard in November 2013 - MG/FNW

For the time being, Le Printemps has not disclosed who will replace Feuchot and Rochebillard. Their departure, according to FashionNetwork.com sources, could herald the arrival of a manager from the department store group. It remains to be see whether the departure means an agreement has been reached between the Place des Tendances founders and Le Printemps in their legal dispute. Feuchot and Rochebillard have so far declined to reply to our questions.

In the summer of 2017, French magazine Le Canard Enchaîné gave news of the legal case between the e-tailer’s two founders and Le Printemps. At the time, Feuchot and Rochebillard were said to have demanded €11.9 million in damages from the department store group, for its failure to fulfil the obligations undertaken when it bought the website. Specifically, they claimed the new owners knowingly slowed down the convergence between the two businesses, even though the acquisition was designed to allow Le Printemps to make up for lost ground in the field of e-commerce.

Place des Tendances was founded in 2007, and in 2013 it was bought by Le Printemps for €30 million, at the same time when Le Printemps was acquired by Qatari investors. Le Printemps’s plans for the website were then revealed the following November by CEO Paolo De Cesare himself, at a breakfast meeting with journalists at the department store’s Parisian branch in boulevard Haussmann. “We will keep the identity of Place des Tendances unchanged for a while,” said De Cesare, adding that “we will move forward step by step, monitoring how our and [the website’s] consumers will react. And we’ll assess how to give greater visibility to both businesses.”

Heading for a legal battle
Two years later, according to Paolo De Cesare, these plans had changed. “We wanted for Place des Tendances to gradually adopt our name, but the site’s very strong reputation made us back off from this idea. Besides, French online shoppers are extremely loyal to their e-commerce sites,” De Cesare told FashionNetwork. “The website may eventually be called Printemps outside France,” he added. More surprisingly, two years later, in summer 2017, Christine Feuchot told us that the e-tailer’s new own label, Day Off, would not be sold in Le Printemps branches, though the site’s founder said that the launch could perhaps shake things up a bit.


Placedestendances.com

However, nothing changed: the relationship between the site founders and Le Printemps eventually deteriorated, and the former are now claiming €11.9 million in damages from the department store group. Four years after the sale of Place des Tendances, its founders were meant to receive an additional bonus for a maximum of €8 million, conditional on reaching the goals of a Business Synergies Plan. The latter reportedly included the merger of Place des Tendances with Printemps.fr, the sale of brands featured at the department store on Place des Tendances, and for the latter to tap Le Printemps’s customer data base.

In their court case, Christine Feuchot and Bertrand Rochebillard are arguing that Printemps Holdings France knowingly slowed down the convergence with Place des Tendances, in order to avoid paying the additional bonus.

“We have fully complied with the obligations undertaken at the time of the acquisition,” said the senior management of Le Printemps to French weekly magazine L’Obs last year. As of today, Le Printemps doesn’t have an e-tail site in its name. Last year, Place des Tendances reportedly generated a revenue of €39.9 million, up 17%. The Printemps group has so far declined to answer questions from FashionNetwork.com.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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