After months of speculation around difficult trading, fashion footwear chain Faith has been put up for sale.
Barclays, Faith's bank, has appointed restructuring specialists FTI Consulting to lead a distressed sale of the business, after rejecting a debt for equity swap proposed by Faith's private equity owner Bridgepoint Capital. Reports suggest the footwear could be sold on in a pre-pack administration deal although the management insist the business is solvent and fulfilling its commitments.
Faith is the third major footwear specialist to face an uncertain future this year. Dolcis fell into administration in January before the brand name and stock was bought by Barratts-owner Stylo - largely to protect its own business from a potential dumping of stock in the market. While Stead & Simpson also went into administration before being rescued by value specialist Shoe Zone in the same month.
Faith has never really recovered from the exit of its previous managing director Jonathan Faith who sold the business to Bridgepoint for £64m in 2004. Jonathan was the driving force behind the business and was heavily involved in everything from product selection and branding through to implementing IT systems. His were always going to be big shoes to fill (though he appeared to have done a pretty good job of convincing Bridgepoint he was "hands off") but the new management team at Faith have made progress on a recovery, rolling out a glossy new shop fit and introducing improved product ranges more reminiscent of Faith of old, restoring some faith in the market the business can recover.
It is inconceivable that the Faith brand could disappear. It retains huge brand loyalty in the hearts of high street shoppers and its concession business within Debenhams remains a valuable asset which would be hard for rivals to ignore.
Whether a private equity player, restructuring specialist, trade player, international retailer or even a supplier will take the plunge and restore this business will certainly make this an interesting story to watch over the coming weeks.