Now that the Belgian branch of Wibra is bankrupt, it is not completely over and out for the chain with 81 stores in Belgium. The Dutch holding, which indirectly owns 100 percent of the shares, wants to make a restart with 36 stores.
These are the branches that are profitable or can be made profitable in the short term.
In the Netherlands, where two thirds of the Wibra shops are, things are much better. “We are structurally healthy in the Netherlands,” said spokesman Maarten Hagg. The board of Wibra is therefore very optimistic about the future, he says. Ultimately, however, opportunities are also seen in Belgium. There are more than 200 Wibra stores in the Netherlands.
The Dutch and Belgians will therefore not be deprived of the celebrated Italian cleaning product Dasty, for which Wibra has the exclusive right in the Benelux, and which even has its own Facebook page.
Wibra is the only one in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg that is allowed to sell cleaning products from the Italian Dasty. That brand mag has a number of enthusiastic fans. On the Wibra website, the first tab is for Dasty.
Wibra does not want to disclose what part of the turnover and result come from the sale of Dasty. However, a start has recently been made with the sale of Dasty products to companies. That would in any case indicate that there is demand from that side.
Years of losses
Wibra was running at a loss in Belgium for years, Hagg explains. When asked whether it involved a few million, Hagg says: ‘yes in that direction’. For years, this was compensated for by the profits made in the Netherlands, but that was ultimately not sustainable, he says.
Wibra’s financial position is also excellent. At the end of 2018, the last year for which figures are available, group equity was 65.3 million euros, on a balance sheet total of 93.3 million euros.
They weighed heavily on results
Belgium’s annual losses do weigh heavily on Wibra’s overall result. In 2018 (the last year for which Wibra filed figures with the Chamber of Commerce), a net profit of EUR 1.3 million was made on a turnover of 161.1 million euros.
Without a few million losses in Belgium, this could have been several times as big.
At the end of last year, a reorganization was therefore decided, whereby the range was better tailored to the customers, the presentation in the stores was improved and the communication to customers, such as through advertising, was tinkered with.
Remarkably, no action had been taken before. That seems strange, Belgium accounted for a third of the turnover and it was a ‘bleeder’, which undermined the results of the well-performing Netherlands.
Corona thwarted improvement
The results of those measures were that there was a significant improvement, Hagg said, “but then came the corona crisis.” The stores in Belgium had to close for two months, while the costs continued.
Wibra filed for a judicial reorganization in Belgium and proposed to close 45 stores and to continue with the remaining 36, for which more perspective was seen. But that proposal went wrong with the judge, says Hagg.
Despite the losses in Belgium, Wibra has been profitable in recent years. In 2018, for example, a turnover of 161.1 million euros made a net profit of 1.3 million euros.
This result was better than in the previous year, when turnover was slightly higher at 165.5 million euros and net profit slightly lower at 1.1 million.
Wibra expects to be able to grow further, both with brick stores and online, Hagg said. He also sees opportunities in Belgium, in Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels. The Belgian stores that Wibra wants to continue with are also spread throughout the country.
Hagg does not want to give Wibra’s objectives for the coming years. Because of the corona crisis, customers are at least better able to find the stores, says Hagg.
Now that the worst-performing stores in Belgium are being closed, the result from Belgium will, after a possible restart, be much less or no longer depressing or the total result of Wibra.