NoorderHuys Participaties acquires interest in Siebel Juweliers

Joure, June 2008 - With 42 branches Siebel Jewellers is the largest jewellery chain in the top end sector of the Dutch mass market. With a shop concept that is both innovative and completely unique within the branch the company became ‘2007 Retail chain of the year’ in its sector. Together with the management NoorderHuys took over all the shares of Retail Network / CVC. Siebel was the last remaining part of the so-called Sixpack transaction within this organization.

For Siebel gaining independence signifies the start of a period in which it can autonomously further develop and roll out its own strategy. An important element in this respect is the continuation of the conversion from the more traditional jewellery stores to the innovative Celebrate Life concept. This concept stands for a low-threshold, inviting, and therefore very different, shop layout, a different client approach by the staff, and a more trendy selection. With NoorderHuys as majority shareholder and an enthusiastic management team led by managing director Frans van Loef, the company looks to the future full of confidence, despite the trickiness of the current retail climate.

For Van Loef the challenge lies mainly in the opportunities offered by the current market structure. He has the following to say on it: “The jewellery branch is still traditionally organised, focusing on a client who walks into the jeweller’s with a specific purchase in mind. We wanted to lower the threshold to encourage clients to enter the shop without a particular reason. With the Celebrate Life concept that we have developed we think we have begun to meet consumers’ wishes. We know this through clients’ reactions, but, more importantly, also through the increase in turnover that we have realised since the conversion.” He adds: “”Together with a dedicated management team and a solid shareholder, we as market leader are the obvious party to continue taking the lead in this branch by introducing new developments.”
For NoorderHuys this is the sixth participation since it set up its fund last year. “This is our first participation in the retail sector”, says John Ritchi. “Because of its sensitivity to economic trends, it is a sector that at first sight seems tricky for private equity, but with Siebel we very quickly developed a good feeling about both the company, its management and its growth opportunities.” Wit respect to the process he has the following to say: “We had been following the company for some time, and were therefore able to act quickly when the sales process was started. Thanks to the good preparatory work done by Retail Network and its advisor Lindenaar & Co Corporate Finance, the actual transaction could be realised in only two months, which is quite fast.”

Background information on the branch
After a period of strong growth between 1995 and 2001 the jewellery branch suffered decline in the period 2002-2005. Since mid-2006 turnover has been autonomously increasing thanks to the improvement of the general economic climate. In comparison to earlier difficult periods in the branch, however, the market underwent structural changes during these years. In the past jewellers could count on the average consumer making a number of standard purchases, but today they have to compete more and more with a host of suppliers of a wide range of ‘affordable luxury goods’. Consumers have also become much more fashion-conscious when it comes to jewellery. In the long term the traditional jewellery business will face more and more difficulty, because there is no longer one dominating homogeneous target group. These developments, reinforced by the slow economic growth in the years leading up to 2005, ‘force’ the branch to reorient and consolidate. Due to the low concentration degree and the succession problems that many individual jewellers have, little has happened so far. There are more and more signs, however, that the branch is on the threshold of a period with many changes.

About Siebel Jewellers
With 42 branches all over the Netherlands Siebel Jewellers is the largest jewellery chain in the top end sector of the Dutch mass market. Siebel was established in 1912. After being part of Vendex for a long time, the company was sold to CVC in 2002, as part of a management buy-out that also comprised Hans Anders, Prenatal, Perrysport, Kijkshop and Scapino. Siebel’s main office is located in The Hague. The company employs approximately 300 persons and realised a € 30 million turnover in 2007. See also: www.siebeljuweliers.nl.