One would have thought they were weakened by the Covid-19, shunned by entrepreneurs, gone to the dark side in terms of economic dynamism. It is not so. Goodwill continues to be attractive, as shown by the sector’s sales and disposal figures, which are back to pre-crisis levels.
– Shops are selling at the same rate as in 2019
After the Covid-19 air hole, operations started again. According to the figures that the firm Altares is preparing to publish in its annual study on “sales and disposals of goodwill”, and that “Les Echos” reveals exclusively, the number of transactions is close to 28,000 in France in 2021. The market is therefore back to its almost 2019 level (28,291 transactions) after falling to 25,320 at the height of the pandemic in 2020. “Intuitively, we thought that many traders were going to sell and few were going to buy. In fact, quite the reverse is happening. Demand literally exploded last year with few sellers who waited,” confirms Vivien Boualem, network director of the Michel Simond group, which manages a thousand files a year.
– An average purchase price, at 200,000 euros, increasingly high
Another signal of the good performance of the sector: prices have held up, even increased, chasing out of hand the idea of weakened businesses that would have been sold off. “The average sale price should exceed 200,000 euros, which clearly shows that businesses remain attractive,” says Thierry Millon, director of studies at Altares. Below the 180,000 euro mark in 2017, cases were concluded on average at 185,000 in 2018 and 2019 before increasing by 6.6% in 2020 to 198,000 euros, driven mainly by the good results of pharmacies during the Covid.
The crisis in Ukraine and uncertainties about the economy could however slow the momentum. “We had a very good start to the year, but we feel that it is calmer, the candidates are restrained, there is a lack of confidence”, explains Gilles Marconnet, president of the Transaxio firm.
– Tobacco shops, pharmacies, convenience stores are a hit
Regulated businesses (tobacco shops, tobacco bars, pharmacies), deemed “essential” during the Covid, and which therefore avoided closures, just like food businesses (supermarkets, etc.), got through the crisis without a hitch. They have logically attracted buyers and seduced new entrepreneurs. “ Effect of the Covid, there have been many requests for retraining of salaried executives. But tobacco shops are part of the shops, where unlike florists, butchers, or hairdressers, it is not necessary to have specific training”, underlines Gilles Marconnet. In 2020, five commercial activities were valued above 200,000 euros: pharmacies (average price of more than one million euros!), tobacco shops, optics, car dealerships, and stationery-press. On the other hand, food businesses – pastry chefs, butchers, chocolate makers, which did very well during the pandemic, face the same transmission difficulties as before, due to the image of the arduousness of the profession.
– The restaurants are holding up, but losing their luster
They haven’t collapsed, but their ability to seduce is somewhat at half mast. “While demand is very high in shops, files for restaurants remain slow” testifies Vivien Boualem. The sector traditionally represents 1/3 of sale-transfer operations with 10,000 cafes, hotels and restaurants changing hands each year. But the Covid has been there. In 2020, transactions fell to 8,400. “For two years, the market has focused on a few good deals and on themed chains or franchise brands, but for traditional restaurants, it’s more complicated,” reports Gilles Marconnet.
Exception in Paris, it seems, where the CCI Paris Ile-de-France anticipates a “good year”. 80% of the 24 recovery files registered since January (77 in 2021 and 60 in 2020) concern restaurateurs. “In the capital, there aren’t really any premises available anymore, and when that’s the case, no condominium wants a restaurant at the bottom of the building, so the activity goes through recovery” explains Lucie Pollina, sale-recovery adviser. “On the other hand, the banks are very cautious, they only lend if the restaurateur sets up a takeaway business,” she points out.