FN Exclusive: Repetto Closes US Operations, Steps Up E-Commerce + Starts Making Masks

French ballet shoe label Repetto has closed its US operations — shuttering its New York boutique and laying off store staff and senior management — as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hit the industry hard.

Speaking exclusively to FN this morning by telephone, CEO and owner Jean-Marc Gaucher said he made the decision in late March, and plans to retain one stateside employee to manage key wholesale accounts, including Nordstrom.

“I assessed the situation and decided it was better to step out quickly,” the executive said, explaining that rent for the New York boutique’s prime Broadway location was prohibitive. “It’s a time to rethink priorities. We don’t know how long all this will last.”

Gaucher, who was formerly the CEO for Rebook France before buying Repetto some 20 years ago, said that 60% of the brand’s sales are generated online as opposed to in store or via wholesale. “I am working on a plan to [further] develop the e-commerce business,” he said.

Meanwhile in France, the brand’s Dordogne factory is currently closed. But Gaucher plans to reopen as early as next week to start making masks — first for health-care workers and then for Repetto’s own production team.

The brand’s e-commerce operation is still active, with about 20 employees working. Others are still receiving either full or partial pay.

Repetto Ballet Flats
Repetto ballet flats

As to when normal activity can resume, it’s not clear. Right now, Gaucher said, “making the masks is our top priority.”

Going forward, he hopes to benefit from French government loans to help with salaries and rent. “We have little income, but still expenses,” he said. He also hopes the government will put more pressure on landlords and banks to defer payments.

Gaucher said he also hopes to work with former Americas CEO Gilles Assor, who was let go as part of the U.S. move, again in the future.

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