Intres B.V. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Intres B.V.

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Company Perspectives

Mission: Intres is the leading retail service organization in the field of purchasing, logistics and IT and the chief store formula provider in the fashion, media, sport and home sectors for professional, independent businesses in the Netherlands.

History of Intres B.V.

Intres B.V. is one of the Netherlands' leading cooperative retail services companies. Formed originally as part of the cooperative purchasing movement of the country's independent retail community, Intres (which stands for International Retail Support Services) has developed a full range of retail support services, including developing store formats and concepts that are then franchised to its members. Intres' services include purchasing and logistics support, cooperative marketing, centralized payment services, information, and trade fair operation, among others. Intres operates through a number of sector-specific divisions.

The Intres Mode/Textiel division supports clothing and textile retailers and has developed several store formats, including more than 130 Livera stores, the Netherlands' leading lingerie and bathing suit retail network, as well as the First Lady, Lindessa, First/Man, and Jambelle store formats. Intres' Sports division operates under Intersport, with 117 stores, and Coach, with 46 stores. Intres Wonen serves the furniture (Woonsfeer, Woonflair, City Meubel, Studio, Woonfacet, Runner, Garant Meubel, among others), home textiles (Lin-O-Lux, Style d'Or, WSW/Nachtwacht, Shop in Shop Compact, Berg en Berg, and others), bed (Sleepy Belgie, Slaapgilde, Morgana Slaapkamers), and kitchen (Kitchenworld) markets. Intres also serves the bookstore and media markets with the Blz and Libris store formats through its Intres Media division. Altogether, the company counts more than 1,400 members operating nearly 2,100 stores. The group's total turnover of more than EUR 2.1 billion ($3 billion) in 2005 placed Intres among the Netherlands' top four retail groups. Intres' own revenues totaled nearly EUR 1 billion ($1.4 billion) in 2005.

Purchasing Cooperative Movement in the Early 20th Century

Intres stemmed from the development of the retail purchasing cooperative movement in the early 1920s. A particularly European phenomenon, especially in the Netherlands and Germany, the purchasing cooperatives were formed by small, independent retailers as a means of grouping their buying needs, thereby obtaining better prices from wholesale suppliers. The purchasing companies typically were formed by members of the same retail sector, and were especially popular in the textile, furniture, and clothing sectors. As the movement grew in popularity, a growing number of purchasing groups began to operate on a larger, often regional and even national scale.

Two of the earliest parts of the later Intres appeared shortly after World War I, with the establishment of both Onderling Behand and Noord Nederland in 1918. The two groups grew strongly through the difficult economic climate of the 1920s, and into the 1930s the purchasing movement often meant the survival of many of the country's retailers.

The end of World War II brought a new boom to the purchasing movement. A number of new companies appeared during this time, such as Beco, formed in 1949 and Ceniko, created in 1950. A number of existing groups also merged during the postwar period to form larger companies. In this way, Onderling Behang merged with Maninko in 1952; in 1972, Onderling Behang changed its name to Obema.

By then, the country's rising prosperity--and the appearance of new retailing rivals--during the postwar era had begun to influence a transformation of the purchasing movement. These companies originally were founded to serve more or less as middlemen for their retailer members, essentially functioning as wholesalers, but in the member's interest. Yet the appearance of new large-scale retail groups and the growth of the country's department store chains brought a new threat to the small retail store sector. Facing rising competition, more and more of the country's smaller retailers joined the cooperative buying movement. At the same time, the buying groups began developing a wider range of services, such as transport and other logistics operations, the development of common advertising operations, and a growing range of financial services.

The purchasing groups also began moving toward consolidation of the market, creating a smaller number of larger groups capable of offering a wider number of services to their members, as well as presenting a competitive front against the country's fast-growing large-scale distribution groups. The consolidation of the movement began in earnest in the early 1960s. The modern Intres began to emerge during this period, starting with the merger in 1964 of Noord-Nederland with another group, Ingo. Both companies were specialized in the textiles market--a retail sector that remained at the core of Intres' operations into the next century. The new company, called Topkring, set up its headquarters in Hoevelaken in 1968. Topkring quickly attracted a number of other purchasing groups in the country, such as Dicos, Union, Hercon, and others.

Merging for Strength in the Late 20th Century

Mergers remained a driving force behind Topkring's growth through the 1970s and into the 1980s. Although many of the company's additions remained within the textile sector, the consolidation of the purchasing cooperative movement gave Topkring the opportunity to extend its range of services to other retail sectors. In 1976, the group entered the furniture market through its merger with purchasing group Ceniko, at which point the company took on the new name of Topkring-Ceniko.

The 1970s and 1980s also marked Topkring's transition from purchasing cooperative to full-scale retail support services group. A major part of this development came through the group's efforts to convince its members of the need to create common store formats and store brands. Although the group met with resistance from its typically and traditionally independent membership, Topkring nonetheless succeeded in launching a number of highly successful store formats. These included Livera, which became one of the first in the Netherlands to provide specialized retail sales of lingerie and bathing suits. Livera went on to become the leader in that retail category in the Netherlands. As more and more members signed on to the group's formats, Topkring's retail network spread across the country, presenting as a strong rival to the growing number of nationally and even internationally operating chain store formats. The development of these formats also allowed Topkring to deepen its range of services, developing a full-featured franchising operation, with the group aiding its retailer members in choosing and purchasing new store locations, and the like.

The 1980s and 1990s marked a new era of competition for the retail purchasing cooperatives. The country's retail chain groups were forced to slow their rapid growth as a result of a growing saturation of the various retail markets. Unable to continue to grow through new store openings, the retail chains increasingly turned to a franchise model, signing up a growing number of independent retailers. Faced with a direct threat to their own area of operations, the retail purchasing cooperatives launched a new wave of consolidations.

Topkring not only sought to combine with similar cooperatives, it also used the consolidation of the cooperative movement as an opportunity to expand its range of retail offerings. This led the company into the sporting goods sector in 1988, when it agreed to merge with the Intersport network. The leading sporting goods group in the Netherlands, Intersport had been created in 1968 by purchasing cooperatives from ten countries, including the Netherlands. Intersport Nederland became part of the Hobo-faam/Retailnet group and later grew into a chain of 220 stores. As part of Topkring, and later Intres, Intersport remained associated with the larger Switzerland-based INTERSPORT International Corporation. By the mid-2000s, the larger Intersport network spanned more than 30 countries, with nearly 5,000 stores and a total turnover of more than EUR 7.7 billion.

Following the addition of the Intersport network, Topkring shortened its name, dropping the "Ceniko." By the early 1990s, Topkring sought to consolidate its operations with one of the other large-scale Dutch retail services cooperatives. The company began talks with rival group Nederland; the two parties were unable to reach an agreement, however, and instead Nederland joined with another group, Samen Sterk, to form Euretco in 1992. By then, Topkring had found a more willing partner in Obema. Following the merger, a new holding company was formed to oversee the group's operations, called Intres--taken from International Retail Support Services.

Streamlining Formats for the New Century

Intres turned toward the start of the 21st century as one of the Netherlands' retail powerhouses, overseeing a network of more than 1,500 retailers across the Netherlands. Through the decade, the company continued to expand its range of retail store formats. The group also entered a new retail sector, that of bookstore operations under the Blz and Libris names. These stores later expanded their ranges to embrace the wider media category, including sales of software, CDs, and DVDs.

The consolidation of the Netherlands' retail support cooperatives market continued through the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s. In 1997, for example, the company merged with Beco, which had by then grown into a leading specialist in the furniture and home furnishings sectors. Intres further extended its home furnishings operations with the takeover of Engering-Forster, a group of 17 retailers focused on the bedding and household textiles sectors, in 2000. The following year, Intres added the Burmann group of high-end linen retailers, representing ten stores. By then, the company had completed its restructuring into four divisions, Intres Mode/Textiel, Intres Wonen, Intres Sport, and Intres Media.

Other acquisitions followed into the middle of the decade. In 2002, the company added the Biggie Best Interiors group, followed by the takeover of sporting goods group Coach Nederland B.V. in 2003. In that year, the company completed a larger-scale merger with Centurion, originally established in 1932, which represented 140 women's and men's clothing stores. Not all of Intres' activities led to expansion of the company's own operations. In 2006, for example, the company spun off its Fedac Accountants & Adviseurs unit into a merger with Alfa-groep. In this way, Intres strengthened the range of financial services for its retailer members.

In addition to mergers, Intres sought out an increasing number of partnerships, such as a cooperation agreement with CombiFoto Nederland, formed in 2000, the Eurobrands partnership, formed with department store group Peek & Coppenburg in 2001, and a cooperation agreement with Kop-groep and its 20 Berg & Berg furniture home textiles, reached in 2003.

As it turned toward the mid-decade, Intres began taking steps to streamline and update its list of retail formats. In 2003, the company announced its plans to refocus its retail portfolio around ten core formats--Livera, Firstlady, First/Man, Runner, Lin-O-Lux, Berg & Berg, Kitchenworld, Intersport, Coach, and Libris. The phasing out of the group's other format was expected to be accomplished only over a period of several years, however. As part of the brand refocusing effort, Intres launched a new Intersport "megastore" format in 2005, while converting its five Active Life stores to the Intersport format. In that year, the company also began rolling out a re-styling effort for the Livera format. As one of the Netherlands' top-four nonfood retail groups, Intres remained one of the backbones of the Netherlands' independent retail sector.

Principal Subsidiaries

Berg & Berg Holding B.V. (33%); Bouchier Groep B.V.; Coach Nederland B.V.; Coach Sports Venlo B.V.; IFS B.V.; Intres Belgium N.V. (Belgium); Intres Participaties B.V.; J. Burmann Beheer B.V.; RetailConnect B.V. (30.5%); RetailPay B.V., (50%); Valcom ApS (Denmark).

Principal Competitors

Euretco B.V.


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