Now that HEMA finally has insight into a structurally better financial position, the number of stores in the Netherlands will increase rather than decrease. In any case, investments can be made in more than 580 branches. That is what HEMA CEO Tjeerd Jegen says in conversation with NU.nl on Monday.
"We have not been as good financially as we are in thirteen years," says Jegen, clearly relieved. "The high debt was always hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles."
On Monday, it was announced that HEMA has reached an agreement with a group of creditors to significantly reduce the debt, from EUR 750 million to EUR 300 million. The creditors become full owners of HEMA in return. "It is a good day for HEMA, although we have a double feeling about Marcel Boekhoorn, with whom we have had a very pleasant working relationship."
Boekhoorn already threw in the towel on Sunday, he was unable to reach agreement with the creditors and decided not to put any more money into the HEMA adventure. Despite the double feeling, Jegen speaks of "a good day for HEMA".
Availability of products is improving
With more than 580 stores, of which 60 percent own businesses, the Netherlands is already well covered, yet the CEO certainly does not exclude the opening of new branches. "We are always looking for new residential areas. Then we try to set up a HEMA there. Certainly no shops will disappear," he assures.
The staff also need not fear for their future with the company. "Now that we have more financial air, we can also invest more in staff. At our largest stores, we are investing in a new restaurant concept, including live cooking, which is creating more employment."
The HEMA CEO promises to customers that collections will be changed less quickly and product availability will improve.
When businessman Boekhoorn bought HEMA in 2018, people were also very positive about the future, but that turned out to be short-lived. "We really have more air now, and turnover is almost back to pre-corona levels," explains Jegen. "In the restaurants we will soon be able to receive more people again, in the station shops it will become busier and the same applies to the big cities."
The strategy to make HEMA more of a brand than a store is being continued. HEMA is already working with Wehkamp and Jumbo and wants to enter into more partnerships. "Bol.com is also a great company," Jegen answers when asked if that could be a partner. "In France we already worked with Franprix and now also with the supermarket chain Géant and Casino. France is becoming increasingly important."
"HEMA is not a car on Marktplaats where you make an offer." Tjeerd Jegen
The HEMA CEO is currently less enthusiastic about Blokker, which announced that it would make an offer for HEMA. "I think it is inappropriate to talk about making an offer when this is out of the question at all. We have just agreed with the creditors and they now own." Jegen is well aware that bondholders generally do not become long-term shop owners.
"That does not alter the fact that HEMA is not a car on Markplaats that you make an offer for. Suppose that the bondholders want to sell HEMA in the long term, then that process will follow."