The French Wonderbox, dedicated to the commercialization of gift boxes that give access to the enjoyment of leisure and tourism experiences, finalizes its plans to take over its rival Smartbox while waiting for the competition authorities to give their approval in those countries where the The second one is active, and for the moment it has not disclosed the importation of the transaction. The National Commission for Markets and Competition (CNMC) already has a request on the table to study whether this acquisition complies with European and Spanish antitrust laws, and it must resolve it in the coming weeks.
Nothing was known about this process that would make up the European gift box giant since Wonderbox’s interest in acquiring its rival was made public in June 2022, with a prominent presence in tourist countries such as Spain, Portugal or Belgium. Its property is in the hands of the ‘family office’ Otium Capital, except for the subsidiary that operates in the United Kingdom. The absorption was communicated in May to the works councils of both companies, and in a note it assured that from then on an “information and consultation process” would begin that would allow the details of the operation to be finalized.
But so far, both firms have continued to operate independently and with their own strategies, as was confirmed at the Fitur fair, held last week in Madrid, where each company had its own stand. The CNMC’s response in this regard will arrive in the coming weeks, since this type of procedure must be resolved, in general, within a maximum period of one month. After this, that of the rest of the European competition agencies must arrive, a process that will take several more months to close the operation.
The ‘boom’ of gift boxes that slows down the pandemic
Before the pandemic, more than a million gift boxes were sold in Spain every year, especially on key dates such as Christmas, the summer season or father’s and mother’s days. Its market value exceeded 72 million euros, according to a Gfk study, thanks to its extensive presence in hypermarkets or department store chains.
But the limitations generated by the covid cut short the growth of both firms, which saw their sales drop due to the impossibility of traveling or the conversion of the travel agency sector towards the phenomenon of experiences. With this purchasing process, both groups intended to open “new horizons” and thus accelerate the digitization of their offer, expand the distribution of their innovations or access new markets such as North America.
The Smartbox group operates in eleven different countries and has more than 12,000 points of sale in Spain, including its tourist offer brands such as Paradores, Disneyland Paris or PortAventura. Its expansion model has been based on the acquisition of foreign companies with its same proposal, such as La Vida es Bella and Dakotabox in Spain or Odisseias in Portugal. Its turnover reached 387 million euros in 2021, 38 of which were generated in Spain, conditioned by the pandemic.
The company once held more than 75% of the Portuguese market, and the acquisitions of brands in Spain raised its dominance to more than 60% of sales before the pandemic. “We maintain our activity with total normality and now we are preparing the Valentine’s campaign,” they claim from Smartbox when asked about it.
For its part, Wonderbox has a presence in 13 countries and had a turnover of 240 million in 2021, a figure that in 2018 reached 400 million. Its market share in Spain exceeded 30%. At the end of December, it closed the purchase of Click&Gift, a Spanish firm that sells virtual gift cards of different brands.