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In order to meet its own challenges, over the years the Deveaux group has embarked on a rigorous selection of its partners. Whether they are forwarders, weavers, spinners, manufacturers of part for weaving looms, professionals in sizing or suppliers of IT solutions, they are honored for their dynamic collaboration and team spirit.
Deveaux S.A. is Europe's number three leading manufacturer of textiles. The company manufactures nearly all of the major categories of textiles, from its core dyed-weaving fabrics to printed and plain fabrics, knitwear, toweling fabrics, and woven fabrics. The company also has access to the silk fabrics produced by Ercea, a separate company held personally by CEO Lucien Deveaux and expected to be merged into Deveaux early in the new century. Deveaux has pursued a strong diversification and internationalization through the 1990s that has made it one of the healthiest of an otherwise troubled French textile industry. One of the few remaining companies manufacturing all of its textiles in France, Deveaux has, nevertheless, built its international sales to account for more than 70 percent of its annual sales of nearly EUR 200 million. The company produces textiles for such major brand names as Naf Naf, Gap, Camaieu, Zannier, Zaro, Marks & Spencer, Pimkie, and others.
Transforming a Family Business in the 1960s
When Lucien Deveaux, age 27, took over his family's textile company in 1967, the operation remained a small, Rhône Valley-based concern with just FFr 3 million in sales per year and 90 employees. In just 30 years, Lucien Deveaux was able to boost the company to the ranks of the top three textile manufacturer in Europe, while at the same time controlling a "side" business in clothing manufacture and retail stores to place him at the head of an empire worth some EUR 400 million per year.
Deveaux's origins trace back to the early 19th century, when the Deveaux family purchased its first weaving looms and set up a weaving mill in the village of Montagny, near the town of Roanne, one of the centers of France's textile industry. Early on the family specialized in producing dyed-weaving fabrics, a specialty Deveaux was to maintain into the 1970s. Within its specialty, however, Deveaux quickly covered a wide range of fabric types, from gingham checks to tartans and plaids.
Led by Ernest Deveaux, the company began to expand its operations in the 1870s. One of Deveaux's earliest acquisitions, made in 1874, was that of a weaving mill situated in the nearby village of Saint-Vincent-de-Reins. The company continued to expand through the 20th century, all the while maintaining the Roanne area as its center of operations. The growing use of industrial production techniques and a concurrent rise of new retail formats not only helped step up the demand for textiles and clothing, but also helped the company achieve higher production levels. Reflecting its growth, the company formally incorporated in 1922 as Gouttenoire et Deveaux.
A recession in the 1950s cut Deveaux's growth short when demand for its textile products dropped sharply. The company languished into the 1960s, until a new generation of the family stepped up to the company's helm. In 1962, Lucien Deveaux joined the family company and began acquiring control of the company, which had had its shares diluted among the various Deveaux family members. By 1967, Lucien Deveaux had been placed in charge of Deveaux.
Deveaux's first move to restore the company's growth track was to embark on an ambitious expansion program to increase the company's production capacity. Deveaux began buying up a number of nearby--and struggling--rivals, such as the 1972 acquisition of Cergne-based Bertaud. Deveaux continued to make a number of key acquisitions during the 1970s, boosting its park of manufacturing facilities, while remaining true to its core dyed-weaving fabrics market. In 1975, Deveaux acquired Tissages Dechelette Frères, located at Montagny. Then in 1979, the company bought up Tissage du Ronzy. This acquisition marked one of the company's earliest moves to diversify its product range, as it brought the company manufacturing facilities for the production of toweling fabrics.
By the beginning of the 1980s, Deveaux's annual sales had topped FFr 150 million. Nearly 80 percent of the company's sales remained in France; however, that situation saw some dramatic changes during the 1980s. By the end of that decade, the company's revenues had swelled to nearly FFr 500. Nearly half of its sales now came from beyond France, with western Europe representing the overwhelming majority of Deveaux's international activity.
Expansion for the 21st Century
Diversification became a central part of Deveaux's growth during the 1980s. The company sought to transform itself from a single-product enterprise into a major textile producer operating in nearly all of the various textile categories--and in this way become one of the rare textile companies capable of supplying the wide range of its customer's needs. Helping to fuel Deveaux's expansion was a two-prong opening of its capital: the first came with the purchase of Deveaux shares by French banks BNP and Credit Lyonnais in 1986. The second came that same year when Deveaux took a listing on the Bourse de Lyon's secondary market. In order to achieve this step, Deveaux reorganized its operations, formally merging its various acquisitions--including Bertaud, Tissages Dechelette Frères and Tissage du Ronzy--under the single Deveaux S.A. name. Despite the opening of its shareholding, Lucien Deveaux remained in solid control of the company he had built over the past 20 years.
Deveaux continued to build up its newly acquired towel fabrics operations during the 1980s, establishing that market as one of its core specialty areas. In 1987, Deveaux's toweling activities were boosted by the acquisition of the license to produce Cacherel branded towel products. This division also later added another important label when it began producing towel products for the Pierre Cardin label. By the 1990s, Deveaux had boosted itself to the ranks of the third largest European producer of towel fabrics. In 1988, the company added another subsidiary, under its Société Tissage du Ronzy subsidiary, when it acquired 100 percent of Ateliers Deveaux et Groebli.
Deveaux also stepped up its expansion by investing in enhancing its park of production facilities and then expanding its competence to include other areas of textile manufacture. The company capped its strong expansion during the 1980s with a series of strategic acquisitions, starting in 1988 and extending into the mid-1990s. After the acquisition of Ateliers Deveaux and Groebli in 1988, the company continued its expansion drive, forming a partnership to establish Sprintex in nearby Villefranche sur Saône in 1990. The Sprintex subsidiary, held at 70 percent by Deveaux (boosted to 100 percent in 1997) confirmed Deveaux's diversification strategy with the addition of new production facilities operating into the plain and printed fabrics textiles categories. Moving into the 1990s, the company's acquisition program included the purchases of Teinture et Aprê× de la Trembouze (TAT) and Teintures de Ronzy, made in 1992; the dyed-woven fabrics division of rival French textiles and accessories group DMC; and, adding another new product group, the company Xémard, a manufacturer of knitted fabrics in 1993. In 1994, the company added another important part of its growing textiles empire when it acquired Teintures et Impressions de Lyon in 1994. This acquisition, together with the earlier acquisitions of TAT and Teintures de Ronzy were part of the company's strategy towards greater vertical integration, giving it significant dyeing facilities.
Rather than place Deveaux itself at risk, Lucien Deveaux engaged in a policy of acquiring new--and especially struggling--companies in his own name. Once he had succeeded in returning the new acquisitions to profitability, at the same time gradually installing his own personnel to lead the acquired operations, the companies were then merged into Deveaux S.A. Deveaux continued to pursue this strategy into the mid-1990s with two new acquisitions in 1995. The first was the relatively modest, yet significant, purchase of Ercea, which gave the company not only a new product category, that of printed silks, but also a position in the famed Parisian garment district, the Sentier. The second acquisition was more substantial and marked a new road for the company.
If the company had successfully diversified to cover nearly all the manufactured textile categories, it remained absent from the clothing manufacture and retail clothing fields. Yet in 1995, Lucien Deveaux joined with a partner--who left after only a few months due to a disagreement over strategy&mdashø acquire the European holdings of the shattered Bidermann International clothing and retail group headed by Maurice Bidermann. Deveaux promptly changed the company's name to Ecce (Entreprise de confection et de commercialization europé-ne) and concentrated on restoring the new company's diverse operations--which ranged from clothing manufacture for such high-end labels as Givenchy Men and Yves Saint Laurent pour Homme to retail sales through its Armand Thierry and Classe Affairs retail chains and the Arrow clothing label&mdashø profitability. By the late 1990s, Deveaux had successfully turned around both Ercea, which was slated to join the Deveaux S.A. group at the turn of the century, and Ecce. Nevertheless, Deveaux suggested that he would not combine his textile operations with his clothing activities.
After boosting its knitted fabrics production with the acquisition of 48.95 percent of Teintures et Apprê× de Roanne in 1996, Deveaux turned its attention to boosting its international profile. By the mid-1990s, Deveaux had achieved a new transformation, becoming a diversified textile products group with more than FFr 1 billion in sales in 1996. Yet France continued to represent a large part of Deveaux's sales--more than 45 percent in 1995. Deveaux began to eye entry into the vast North American market, as well as the developing South American and Asian markets, announcing its intention to build sales to those markets to represent as much as 20 percent of its annual sales, while at the same time boosting its total exports to more than 85 percent of its sales in the early years of the 21st century.
Indeed, by the late 1990s, Deveaux had successfully boosted the part of international sales in its total sales to more than 70 percent. Deveaux also capped its strong growth with a conversion of its stock listing to the Paris Bourse's main board in 1997. Yet the company was soon hit hard by a number of factors at the end of the decade that saw its revenues slip backward for the first time since the mid-1980s. A large part of the company's problems stemmed from the economic crisis that had rocked the Asian economies in the late 1990s, when Asian textile manufacturers, faced with oversupplies, slashed their prices by as much as 50 percent and cut into European textiles makers' sales.
Adding to Deveaux's difficulties was a trend in fashions toward plain fabrics--textiles produced much more cheaply by the company's foreign competitors and which represented lower margins than the higher value-added printed fabrics segment. As such, the company worked on reducing its activities in plain fabrics at the start of the year 2000. At the same time, the company continued to boost its dyeing facilities, supplying not only its own needs, but also dyes and printed fabrics to a wide range of textile and clothing manufacturers. In January 2001, the company announced a FFr 15 million expansion and modernization of its TAT dye production facility. While many of its competitors continued to struggle, Deveaux's diversified operations enabled it once again to renew its revenue growth by the end of 2000, when its annual sales topped EUR 199 million.
Principal Subsidiaries: S.A. Sprintex; SARL Tissage de Montagny; SA Teinture et Apprê× de la Trambouze-TAT; SA Teinture du Ronzy; SA Teintures et Impressions de Lyon; SA Teintures et Apprê× de Roanne (48.95%) .
Principal Competitors: Bassetti S.p.A.; Burlington Industries, Inc.; Coats Viyella Plc; Concord Fabrics Inc.; Cotonificio Olcese Veneziano S.p.A.; Filatura di Pollone S.p.A.; Guilford Mills, Inc.; Manifattura Lane G. Marzotto & Figli S.p.A.; Milliken & Company Inc.; Ratti S.p.A.; Vincenzo Zucchi S.p.A.; WestPoint Stevens Inc.
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