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Cameleon, crazy growth not always well controlled

After having missed the digital turn, the company specializing in the destocking of branded clothing has not been able to reinvent itself and has had to put the key under the doormat.

The story of Chameleon is above all that of Jean-Cédric van der Belen who, in 1988, took it into his head to organize sales of off-label designer clothes. The four annual sales organized at the Cinquantenaire, in Brussels, quickly experienced a dazzling success.

To the point of seeing the company set up in the mid-1990s in a former Renault garage where the IPM group, publisher of DH, La Libre and L’Avenir, is currently located. In 1999, Cameleon moved near Meiser and, three years later, a point of sale was opened in Genval.

Crazy growth

In March 2009, Cameleon moved into a completely passive and brand new building in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, next to the former RTL-TVi premises. It is the period of crazy growth, sales driven by Snapstore, the online store created two years earlier. In 2012, for example, Cameleon’s turnover amounted to 60 million euros, up 28% on an annual basis since 2009.

In 2014, patatras. Caught up in the reality of the figures, Cameleon must take shelter from his creditors.

In 2013, the E-Capital funds entered the company by contributing more than 5 million euros. At this time, more or less, the capital of Cameleon was held by E-Capital and the SRIB (50.1%) and by historical shareholders (including Jean-Cédric van der Belen and Augustin Wigny at 49.9%).

In 2014, patatras. Caught up by the reality of the figures (loss of 3.3 million euros and debt of more than 24 million euros), Cameleon must protect itself from its creditors by going through the judicial reorganization procedure (PRJ) box. Pascal Leurquin, the founder of Evadix, is then called to the rescue to get the company back on track. It size in the workforce (we go from more than 220 full-time equivalents to 180), the virtual shops are closed and, in early 2015, Snapstore was sold to Cameleon, in a hyper competitive context, will have missed the digital shift.

Gloomy context

A new CEO was appointed in 2015, followed by another in 2016. The latter then declared that there was potential to open other Cameleons in Brussels. But his optimism will not be verified and the wind seems to have turned.

Nothing helps, the context is gloomy, the attacks in Paris and Brussels have been there and the pandemic is completing this slow work of undermining.

In May 2017, an agreement was reached with Triodos and BNP Paribas Fortis to refinance the building and 2.5 million euros were raised through a bond issue. But nothing helps, the context is gloomy, the attacks in Paris and Brussels have been there and the pandemic completes this slow work of undermining. On November 6, 2020, Cameleon made admission of bankruptcy.

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