French luxury group Kering, owner of brands such as Gucci and Puma, is in talks to sell the lower-brow La Redoute mail-order company after a long effort to divest the unit.

Kering, controlled by the billionaire Pinault family, said it was in exclusive talks with La Redoute chief executive Natalie Balla and Kering executive Eric Courteille, who would take over the company.

Kering, formerly called PPR, posted a net profit of about one billion euros last year, but has pumped tens of millions of euros into trying to revive loss-making La Redoute, whose catalogues were once a fixture of millions of French households.

La Redoute, founded in 1873 and bought by PPR in 1994, remains a French mail order leader with about a billion euros in annual sales and 10 million clients, but the company has been bleeding cash for years.

Hurt by the rise of Amazon and other web retailers, La Redoute sales have plummeted, posting 30 to 40 million euros in operational losses every year.

The workforce at La Redoute has also suffered, downsized by half over the past decade to 3,300 employees, most in northern France.

In selling La Redoute, Kering completes a long retreat from French mainstream retail, in favour of world-renowned luxury brands such as Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Saint Laurent and Puma.

Printemps department stores, Conforama DIY superstores and entertainment retailer Fnac have all been spun off from Kering in recent years.

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