In one month, Comptoir de France bakeries saw their sales plummet by 84%. This chain, installed in China for 15 years, is, like most of the other companies, the costs of the measures taken to control the spread of the coronavirus. Faced with this critical situation, a kitty of support was launched by relatives of Benjamin Devos, the founder of the company. Launched on February 15 on the GoFundMe platform, it raised just over 10,000 euros in 10 days, for a target of 300,000 euros.
“People don’t go out anymore, some buildings refuse residents to go out, many are afraid“Says Julia Devos, the wife of the founder of Comptoir de France. “Our friends saw Benjamin trying to save the last 15 years of his life, so for his birthday they launched this kitty online“, She says. The campaign’s target of 300,000 euros is spread over three months, with a payment to the entrepreneur every two weeks. “It is a gift that cannot be refusedAdded his wife, adding that the couple was very surprised and touched by the initiative. “We hadn’t considered it at all. “
Created in 2005, Comptoir de France now has 15 bakeries distributed between Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. Benjamin Devos offers French pastries, very popular especially with the expatriate community, but also products designed to please local tastes. Also an adviser on foreign trade in Beijing, the entrepreneur is very involved in the French community located in the Chinese capital. For the couple, mutual aid is essential, all the more in these times of epidemic. “We talk about the restaurants open around us, we stick togetherSays Julia Devos. From the start of the epidemic, the entrepreneur took the necessary measures to reassure customers. “All the staff wear gloves, a mask, and we even spaced the tables of 1.50m in the rooms», She explains.
The operating expenses of the brand’s 15 bakeries are estimated at 100,000 euros per month. “We have to pay the rent, the salary of the 200 employees, the suppliers, etc.“, Details Julia Devos. Of all employees, about half cannot go to work. “The fundraising campaign will allow us to make up for the lack created by the virus“She hopes. Especially since the other activities of the company are suffering the blow. The one for professionals, which represented half of the activity, is “almost non-existent” today. The bakery supplied in particular restaurants (their attendance dropped), airlines (their flights were canceled) and hotels (“Their attendance rate is very low, at 1 or 2%“, According to Julia Devos). “Even the e-commerce activity has declined, because our products are not essential.“Of the 15 bakeries, five had to close by order of the Chinese government,”with no prospect of reopening“, She laments.
Due to its special status as a Chinese company with foreign capital, Comptoir de France cannot benefit from any assistance from the Chinese government. “We are in a kind of no man’s land, there is no help for entrepreneurs“, Continues the wife of Benjamin Devos. “Even if we are worried, we keep morale, she continues, every donation counts, regardless of the amount.“