Mutares’ Jurjen Soppe says Prénatal will look at Dutch M&A

'We have positioned this transaction also as a way to focus more on local specialisation in the Dutch market, on the specific needs there,' says Jurjen Soppe, managing director at Mutares.

Mutares will primarily focus on strengthening Prénatal’s position in the Netherlands with an opportunistic view on M&A, while navigating the uncertain retail segment, Jurjen Soppe, managing director and head of Benelux, told PE Hub Europe.

Prénatal is a retailer that provides maternity, baby and infant clothing, childcare products and hard goods, as well as toys. It is based in Amersfoort and generates revenues of around €100 million. In the Netherlands, Prénatal consists of Prénatal Moeder en Kind and its 100 percent subsidiary WIJ Special Media.

Munich-based Mutares agreed to acquire Prénatal’s stores and ecommerce activities in the Netherlands from PRG Retail Group in November.

As Prénatal was previously part of a southern European group, Soppe doesn’t see sense in exploring the same geography again. “We have explicitly chosen the Netherlands as the current scope, but we always keep looking at our options,” he said. “My personal belief is that we have quite a lot of overlap in this northern part of Europe.”

“We have positioned this transaction also as a way to focus more on local specialisation in the Dutch market, on the specific needs there,” he added.

Soppe describes Mutares as a hands-on investor that utilises its own experts within the operational team. “We have an integrated value creation approach, and we will always look at M&A,” said Soppe. “We’ll be assessing opportunities on an ongoing basis.”

The retail segment has been through a lot, with soaring inflation and the pandemic, of which the latter highlighted consumers’ shift towards online shopping. Since the start of the pandemic, e-commerce as a share of total retail sales grew 1.6 times in China, 3.3 times in the US and 4.5 times in the UK, according to a report by McKinsey & Company. By 2025, nearly a quarter of all global sales are expected to be made online, the report added.

Soppe stressed the importance of finding the balance between reaching customers and fulfilling those customers’ needs. “It’s important that you have your stores, where people can look at the products,” he said. “At the same time, e-commerce is an increasingly important segment.”

“One of the reasons that we acquired Prénatal is that it also has a subsidiary which is very strongly positioned in data,” he added, referring to WIJ Special Media.

Mutares is not alone in its interest in maternity and baby product retailers. Earlier in 2023, Mayfair Equity Partners started a take-private bid for maternity wear business Seraphine.

Despite the wider challenges in retail, Mutares is confident in the baby and toddler segment. “We’re not going to change the macro risks in retail, that’s beyond us,” said Soppe. “But at the same time, I believe we have 170,000 newborns in the Netherlands every year. That means that for our concept, we have 170,000 new customers on a yearly basis.”