Last August, the Competition Authority authorized InVivo’s takeover of Jardiland under certain restrictions. The sale, initiated in November 2017, allowed the agricultural cooperative group to imperially consolidate its position in the pet and gardening sector. In addition to Gamm Vert, another chain of gardening brands present in France, which represents 1.6 billion euros in sales in 2017, and the Delbard group, for 250 million euros, it is Jardiland and its 750 million euros in sales that were part of the cooperative group,’ through its Distribution division InVivo Retail. In its decision of 24 August 2018, the Competition Authority, the independent administrative authority which must fight against any anti-competitive practices on the domestic market, had therefore matched the exclusive takeover of Jardiland by InVivo Retail with guarantees of competition in 11 territories. At the time, the group had committed to divest its 11 outlets. This has been done for three of them since March 1, 2019, since three Jardiland stores have been sold to its competitor Truffaut. This sale of three stores by the brand covers a symptomatic evolution of the gardening market.
A transfer to avoid an anti-competitive position
The acquisition of Jardiland by InVivo Retail posed, according to the Competition Authority, certain risks of breaking competition in several areas of the domestic market. For example, the sites of Chartres, Clamecy, Cosne-sur-Loire, Limoges, Poitiers, Montélimar, Point-de-Beauvoisin, Roanne-Malby, Saint-Dizier, Sevrey and Vendôme, where the competitive situation was ensured by the establishment of Gamm Vert and Jardiland, were reported as areas at risk by the independent administrative authority. To remedy this situation, InVivo proposed the sale of 5 Jardiland outlets, and the termination of its franchise agreements in 6 other outlets (regarding Jardiland, Gamm Vert or Delbard brands). It was in this context that the agricultural cooperative announced on March 1st that three of its stores were being sold in Truffaut, in the cities of Limoges, Poitiers and Montélimar. They have therefore opened under their new banner.
A concentration of stores, a symptom of the garden market
While the Competition Authority’s decision is aimed at enforcing the principle of competition to protect consumers from a monopolistic position that would harm their purchasing power, InVivo Retail’s takeover of Jardiland last September is far from trivial. It marks a fundamental movement of the gardening and pet shop sector, that of the concentration of signs within a few large groups. The objective of being able to weigh on the European market level was clearly stated by InVivo Retail Managing Director Guillaume Darrasse. If the movement of the last decade has been rather that of the absorption of independent garden centres by the large organized networks, which have been able to consolidate in the market, because of their notoriety and their financial situation healthy enough to afford to invest, this change of ownership marks the transition to a higher speed. Indeed, inVivo Retail’s objective is to assert itself as a European player by buying a major brand. The gardening market accounted for nearly 3 billion euros in 2017, with growth of 1.7%. Surfing on the ecological greening of many individuals, this market is dynamic in the plant sector. It is much less so in the pet store, where e-commerce is becoming more and more prominent (8% in 2017). In fact, this acquisition by InVivo is mainly a sign of sluggish sales in specialty stores, as online sales absorb the majority of the sector’s growth. Truffaut’s merger strategy is met with Truffaut’s choice of franchise, while other small independent local garden chains such as Kiriel and Point Vert have formed a buying partnership.
Symptom of the evolution of the gardening market, the acquisition of Jardiland by InVivo and the events that followed should not mask the diversification strategy of the InVivo Retail division. The cooperative group has also invested in the food sector by acquiring the Bio and Co brand, which is in addition to the Fresh here brand. A group to follow, especially in the New Aquitaine region, where developments could be felt very soon, in a dynamic region that currently has twenty-one Jardiland stores in all twelve departments that compose it.
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