Barratts chief executive Michael Ziff has ruled himself out of bidding for the footwear business, which is in administration for the third time in five years, but has told Drapers that he would be prepared to work with a new owner if required.
Industry experts, however, do not believe Barratts will be rescued, leaving 75 stores, 23 concessions and more than 1,000 staff at risk.
David Whitehouse and Philip Duffy of Duff & Phelps were appointed as joint administrators on November 8, with the company blaming “difficult trading conditions” for its demise.
Speaking exclusively to Drapers on Wednesday, Ziff maintained that Barratts “has a position in the comfort end of the market”, adding: “We have been trading strongly since new product arrived in April and our boot sales in early September were spectacular. But we didn’t have enough stock or enough working capital in the business.”
The Ziff family shareholding in the business amounts to just under 50% and with close associates it represents about 70%, but Ziff told Drapers: “I do not see myself throwing new money at it or running it. I would look to it going forward under a new incumbent and I would be happy to partner a new owner in some way.”
Bradford-based Barratts has fallen into administration twice before, in 2009 and again in 2011, when Ziff rescued 89 stores from administration.
One property consultant said it would be “illogical” to plough money into the beleaguered business once more. He said: “They are sitting on pretty poor property and would probably need to close half the portfolio to survive but the landlords won’t let them do that.”
One footwear source said: “I can’t see a future for it. It must be finished at this stage. It needs a lot of investment but I can’t see anyone putting money into a dead business.”
A second source added a new leadership team “with fresh ideas to rebuild the brand’s credibility with consumers” would be essential. He added: “Truthfully I don’t think the business has a credible USP to differentiate itself in the market.”