* Like-for-like sales rise 9.3 pct in first half
* Sales in France rose at same level as globally
* No change in strategy since arrival of Shandong Ruyi
By Astrid Wendlandt and Pascale Denis
PARIS, Aug 31 (Reuters) - SMCP, the group behind French fashion brands Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot, bucked the global fashion industry’s sluggish sales growth trends with a 9.3 percent increase in like-for-like revenue in the first half, helped by resilient demand in France.
Maje, Sandro and Claudie Pierlot operate in the sweet spot of the accessible luxury segment of the fashion market, which enjoyed stronger demand than the high-end and similar growth to budget brands such as Inditex’s Zara and Hennes & Mauritz (H&M).
The three French fashion labels sell dresses for between 150 euros and 250 euros ($167-$278) and react fast to changing consumer and fashion trends thanks to supply chain practices borrowed from retailers such as H&M.
SMCP said first-half like-for-like sales in France, where it generates half of its revenue, rose at around the same level as globally, in high single digits, contrasting with the overall French fashion market where sales so far this year have been slightly negative.
“We are winning market share in France,” SMCP Chief Executive Daniel Lalonde told Reuters in an interview.
Including the impact of foreign exchange and new stores, first-half sales were up 19.2 percent at 377.2 million euros ($420.31 million) globally, while in France, reported growth was 12 percent.
Lalonde said SMCP’s digital strategy was paying off and online sales now made up 10 percent of total revenue, up from 6 percent last year.
SMCP did not publish profit figures but Lalonde said earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose more than the group’s reported first-half sales growth of 19.2 percent.
SMCP said it planned to pursue its international expansion, particularly in greater China where it would continue to open around 30 shops a year.
Lalonde said the strategy had not changed after majority owner KKR agreed this spring to sell control to China’s Shandong Ruyi in a 1.3-billion-euro deal that made the company cancel its application for a Paris flotation.
“There will be no change in the strategy with the arrival of Shandong Ruyi,” Lalonde said, adding the transaction had been approved by the Chinese authorities and was expected to close in the coming weeks.
Shandong Ruyi will own 80 percent of SMCP while KKR will retain a 10 percent stake. Founders Evelyne, Ylan Chetrite and Judith Milgrom will together share with management the remaining 10 percent.
Lalonde took the helm of SMCP in April 2014 after spending more than a decade at luxury goods industry leader LVMH and two years at Ralph Lauren.
$1 = 0.8980 euros Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt; editing by Susan Thomas