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The leading independent group in the medium surface-size market, Bricorama has created stores on a human scale adapted to the needs of a primarily consumer clientele. Focusing on communities of 35,000 to 40,000 residents, the Group is also present in large urban centers with a perfect knowledge of its local markets.
Bricorama S.A. operates the sixth largest retail do-it-yourself (DIY) and hardware store chain in France, with a growing presence in the European market, notably in Belgium and the Netherlands. The company is also the leading independent DIY and hardware retailer in France, as its primary competitors, such as Leroy Merlin, Castorama, Bricomarche, and Mr. Bricolate operate as subsidiaries of a large-scale French retail group. Bricorama targets the mid-sized market, with stores ranging in size from 800 square meters to 4,000 square meters for an average store size of 2,000 square meters. In 2004, however, the company began testing a 10,000-square-meter store concept with an accent on decoration and gardening. Bricorama typically operates near population centers of 35,000 to 40,000 residents but also operates a number of stores in the larger urban markets. Bricorama operates more than 160 stores, including 80 stores in France, 36 in Belgium, and 18 in the Netherlands, as well as 28 franchised stores in France's DOM-TOM possessions and North Africa. The company's stores operate under the Bricorama and Batkor names in France and the Gamma and Karwei names in Belgium and the Netherlands. Together, the company's stores represent more than 475,000 square meters of selling space. Bricorama is quoted on the Euronext Paris Stock Exchange. Founder Jean-Claude Bourrelier nonetheless retains control of 87 percent of the group's stock, with an addition 2 percent held by employees. In 2003, the company posted consolidated sales of EUR 810 million ($1.1 billion). France represents the group's largest market, at 65 percent of sales, while the Benelux market contributes 24 percent to sales.
Do-It-Yourself Hardware Empire in the 1970s
Jean-Claude Bourrelier was just 29 years old when, with a partner, he opened his first hardware store, in Paris's 13th arrondissement on the Place d'Italie, in 1975. From the start, Bourrelier envisioned a larger structure for his store in order better to compete against the fast-growing large-scale DIY groups in France at the time. For this, Bourrelier turned to the ANPF, a DIY store cooperative.
The ANPF roots reached back to the 1960s, at a time when the DIY market--known as "bricolage" in France--began its first wave of popularity. France's strong economic growth in the 1950s and 1960s had given people more leisure time, and new industries were appearing that catered to people's hobbies and leisure activities. Bricolage quickly emerged as a French favorite, and by the end of the 1960s the term had come to include everything from simple "puttering about the house" to full-scale DIY renovation and construction projects.
In 1964, a number of independent retailers came together to form a cooperative club, the Action Nationale des Promoteurs du Faite-le-vous-même (the French translation of "do-it-yourself"), or ANPF. The ANPF, initially an informal grouping, developed into a purchasing cooperative by the end of the decade. During the 1970s, the ANPF's role became more and more central to its members. The years of recession in the 1970s had transformed bricolage from a hobby to an economic necessity, and during the decade a number of new large-scale store chains, such as Castorama and Leroy Merlin, had begun to challenge the nation's small hardware shops for control of the market.
The ANPF's members chose to differentiate themselves from their larger competitors, which typically targeted France's larger urban markets, with a focus on the country's mid-sized population centers. The ANPF stores also retained a mid-sized store format in order to provide closer customer service than the larger stores were able to provide. By the end of the 1970s, the DIY cooperative members, who had continued to operate under their own store names, decided to create a single common name for their network. In 1980, the ANPF cooperative, including Jean-Claude Bourrelier, chose the name Mr. Bricolage.
By then, Bourrelier had already opened his second store, in Nogent-sur-Marne, in 1979. In 1980, Bourrelier bought up a third store, again in Paris. By 1983, Bourrelier had proven himself to be one of the fastest-growing members of the cooperative, with five stores under his control. The purchase of a sixth store, operating under the name Etablissements Wickes, brought Bourrelier into conflict with the ANPF for the first time. After the ANPF refused to allow the Wickes store to be converted to the Mr. Bricolage name, Bourrelier decided to launch a new format for the store, calling it Batkor. Instead of targeting DIY consumers, Batkor adopted a deep-discount approach, with a more limited range targeting the "hardcore" DIY segment and the professional trades.
Bourrelier continued adding new stores throughout the 1980s. By 1990, Bourrelier's holding had topped 13 stores. Yet Bourrelier's growing empire had brought him into increasing conflict with the ANPF, and in 1990 Bourrelier broke with the cooperative group. Bourrelier quickly sought a new umbrella structure for his store network, which remained tiny by comparison with the larger networks, and Bourrelier's stores were brought under the DIY arm of the Euromarché supermarket. In 1986, Euromarché had acquired the 16-store Bricorama chain; that store name was then applied to all of Euromarché's large-format stores in 1988. The company maintained a small- and mid-sized store format under the Euroloisirs name.
Bourrelier changed the name of his chain to IDF Bricolage, the IDF referring to the chain's focus on the Ile-de-France region around Paris. In 1990, IDF Bricolage moved beyond its core region with the acquisition of the seven-store Pictoral chain, based in the east of France. The following year, Bourrelier added three Projet stores, this time in the central and western parts of the country, as well as the single Fauvarge store, in Vitry-le-François. With his chain achieving national status, Bourrelier's store then took on the Batkor name. By then, Bourrelier operated more than 20 stores, with sales topping FFr412 million (approximately $70 million).
Independent in the 1990s
The Euromarché group was bought up by Carrefour in 1991. The retail giant sold off its newly acquired DIY operations the following year to the Castorama group. Castorama immediately turned over the 20 small- and mid-sized Euroloisirs stores to Bourrelier and Batkor, as well as the rights to the Bricorama name. Bourrelier then converted his consumer-oriented DIY store network to the Bricorama name, while maintaining the discount and trades-oriented Batkor format. In 1993, Bourrelier changed his company's name to Bricorama S.A.
The second half of the 1990s marked a new phase of rapid expansion for the company. Acquisition fueled much of Bricorama's growth, starting with the purchase of La Bricaillerie, a 15-unit network of small format stores operated by Castorama. The addition of La Bricaillerie boosted the company's total network to 54 stores, for sales of nearly FFr1.3 billion ($150 million).
Bricorama set its sights on a larger target in 1996, the DIY group GIB. In order to fund a takeover offer, the company decided to go public, listing on the Paris Stock Exchange in that year. Bourrelier, however, maintained firm control over his company, holding 87 percent of its shares. An additional 2 percent were held by the company's employees. The public offering helped raise Bricorama's profile; the GIB acquisition failed, however, when a purchase offer made by rival Leroy Merlin was accepted.
Bricorama turned to a new acquisition opportunity in 1997, when the U.K.'s Wickes Plc, reeling from an accounting scandal, announced its intention to sell off its retail holdings in Belgium, the Netherlands, and France. After negotiations with a number of groups, Wickes' choice fell on Bricorama, which acquired the 39 stores for £7.5 million ($11 million). These new stores boosted Bricoram's total to 95, with sales for the year nearly FFr2 billion ($350 million).
International DIY Group in the 2000s
Through the end of the 1990s, Bricorama made a number of smaller acquisitions, such as the six-store Outirama chain, based in the Rhone-Alpes, in 1998. The company also opened a new store in Belgium that year. At the turn of the 21st century, Bricorama implemented a new information technology system linking its stores and moved into new centralized headquarters in Fontenay-sous-Bois. Franchising also contributed to the company's growth, including a new franchised store in Bondy, near Paris. Most of the company's franchise activities took place outside of France, introducing the store name to such places as Réunion, New Caledonia, Wallis et Futuna, Guadeloupe, Guyane, and Saint-Martin in the DOM-TOM (French overseas departments) and in North Africa, including Morocco and Tunisia.
In 2001, Bricorama made a new major purchase, acquiring the more than 25 stores of the Bricostore chain. That purchase pushed Bricorama's network past 130 stores, and its annual sales past EUR 500 ($500 million). The Bricostore acquisition included 16 stores in Belgium that operated as franchises under the Gamma and Karwei brands, held by the Intergamma group. In 2002, Bricorama and Intergamma reached a licensing agreement, and Bricorama began converting its Belgium and Netherlands stores to the Gamma and Karwei formats.
Bricrama continued to progress toward mid-decade, successfully navigating the worst effects of an economic slowdown. The crushing competition for France's DIY market led the company to begin developing a new method of differentiating itself to the public. In 2004, the company unveiled a store to test a new format. The new store featured more than 10,000 square meters of floor space, making it far and away the largest in the group. The larger format also emphasized decoration and gardening, two of the fastest-growing "bricolage" segments. The success of this store led the company to begin rolling out its new "Passion" format, with its base of decoration and gardening. While small among its far larger rivals, Bricorama represented a true DIY success story.
Principal Subsidiaries: Andenne Bricolage BVBA (Belgium); Batkor Finances BV (Netherlands); Boco NV (Belgium); Bouwar N.V. (Belgium); Braine L'alleud Bricolage BV (Belgium); BRICO 1; BRICO 2; Brico St Andre; Bricorama BV (Netherlands); Bricorama France; Bricorama N.V. (Netherlands); CB Bouwmarkten N.V. (Belgium); EPI Services; Gruto BVBA (Belgium); Lansa den Bosch (Netherlands); Lansa Schinjdel (Netherlands); Lokeren Doe Het Zelf B.V. (Belgium); M A G BVBA (Belgium); M A Z BVBA; Maatschap Bouwmarkt (Belgium); Megara Leerdam (Netherlands); Multi Hobby N.V. (Belgium); Robo N.V. (Belgium); Wabo N.V. (Belgium); Zelf Bouwmarkt (Netherlands).
Principal Competitors: METRO AG; Castorama SA; Leroy Merlin S.A.; Praktiker Bau- und Heimwerkermarkte AG; ProMarkt GmbH.
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