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A week in fashion: What makes an entrepreneur?

The acquisition of Envy from Alexon by John Kinnaird this week, just one month after his Dolcis business collapsed into administration has outraged and intrigued suppliers, former employees and rival retailers.

The Dolcis sales memorandum seen by Drapers shows that the footwear chain's performance went from bad to worse during Kinnaird's 12 month ownership of the business and it's somewhat ironic that performance of Dolcis' concessions in Envy slumped so far behind last year that he was served notice and the concessions were due to close this month. Stories like that hardly fill the trade with confidence in Kinnaird's understanding of the menswear sector.

The debate has not been helped by Kinnaird's uncharacteristic refusal to outline his strategy - to date he has not returned any of Drapers' phone calls - when in the past he has been vocal about his plans. That Envy is in a similar position to Dolcis was when Kinnaird picked it up - classic under investment in stores and horrific levels of competition - is also concerning all round.

But sources close to Kinnaird insist he is no fool and is definitely a "man with a plan".

However whether he rescues a slimmer and fitter Dolcis from administrators KPMG and merges it with Envy is by the by. There would be costs attached to relocating Envy head office outside of the Alexon Group's office and up the M1 to the Dolcis office in Coventry and how Kinnaird would find it easier to trade a 40 store shoe chain against Dolcis' previous scale of 180 stores in such a competitive market place is up for debate.

Kinnaird's £1 purchase of Envy has also fuelled speculation he will trade the stock acquired with the business for cash rather than think long term. This is a strategy that fashion retail's leading entrepreneur Sir Philip Green employed in the 1990s when he bought Shoe Express from Sears in 1997, traded the business for cash before flogging it on to Stead & Simpson making a tidy profit just one year later.

A strategy like that is a mark of a true entrepreneur and it would be wrong to write Kinnaird off just yet. But he still has much to prove and there are people's livelihoods attached to Envy and its supply base as there was to Dolcis and its suppliers. The importance of that should not be forgotten and Kinnaird would do well to speak out soon to reassure the industry of his commitment.

Similarly, if Envy cannot be turned around then some pretty tough questions should be asked of Alexon who has sold Kinnaird two businesses in 12 months. Alexon is a public company which of course was eager to dispose of the drain on profits Envy and Dolcis had become for its shareholders, but with that public status comes other responsibilities too.

What do you think John Kinnaird should do with Envy? Should he be classed as an entrepreneur? Does he have a trick up his sleeve? Post your comments below.

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