The financial challenge for THOM in FY23 was to address the new reality of inflation. We pursued a bold strategy: not to increase our prices beyond our usual practices. Our volume growth momentum was strong, and we didn’t want to disrupt it with price hikes. Many of our competitors chose the opposite path, allowing us to gain market share and increase the value of our margins and EBITDA (adjusted for subsidies and supplier credit notes that positively impacted the 2022 fiscal year). During this time, we tested price increases in Belgium, enabling us to find the right formula that we will implement in 2024, ensuring a seamless experience for our customers.
Another challenge was to increase the availability of our best sellers. We invested in our stocks to always have the best-selling products in stores. In a more challenging market where the cash flow difficulties of independent jewelers sometimes lead to stockouts, having a complete and always available assortment is a major advantage.
Finally, another key challenge, as it is one of our strong convictions, was to develop various tools to enable managers and employees to enhance the Group’s performance. The successive THOMtogether programs now allow nearly 1500 employees to be shareholders of the Group. The Group contributed significantly to enable everyone to become a shareholder. Managers and employees now hold 22.5% of the Group’s capital.
Regarding the more specific challenges of the Group, we are now consolidating our accounts in accordance with IFRS. The Group has grown and internationalized, necessitating an international accounting framework for comparison with other market players and providing the best possible transparency to all our stakeholders. IFRS addressed these issues.
We had to create a new organization to closely monitor the performance of each brand within our business units.
Finally, we established the THOMforyou endowment fund, in line with the values promoted by its Founder. The fund aims to develop or financially and materially support actions in the field of equal opportunities and professional integration, either directly through its own actions or indirectly by redistributing them to other non-profit organizations. The fund was endowed with approximately 3.5 million euros, contributed in shares by the Group’s shareholders.
The medium-term financial milestones will include the refinancing of the Group, as our senior secured notes have a maturity date in March 2026.
Another key milestone for the financial direction is the transition I am overseeing with Kevin Aubert, which should lead to his appointment as Group CFO upon my departure on October 1, 2024. This transition is a great source of pride for me; I have been working with Kevin for 10 years, and being able to accompany him in this role, as Jean Pierre Chantrel, the former CFO, also accompanied me before my appointment in 2018, is very exciting.
The Group has undergone significant changes and now aspires to showcase the THOM brand to investors and all economic players. We have professionalized our corporate communication, and Carole Danel, who is in charge of our investor relations, is in constant contact with them. We maintain excellent relationships with all our financial stakeholders and try to meet them regularly. The exchanges with them are invaluable to help us progress and offer them increasingly clear and relevant information.