Industry observers and suppliers to Brantano UK expressed their sadness, but no real surprise, after the value footwear retailer collapsed into administration on Thursday.
As one Brantano supplier put it: “There had been rumours, especially after what happened with Macintosh [Brantano’s former owner, which filed for bankruptcy in December, less than three months after selling Brantano and its sister company, Jones Bootmaker, to Alteri Investors].
“We all know Jones is the jewel in the crown.”
John Saunders, chief executive of the British Footwear Association, said: “I don’t think it’s a massive surprise. The difficulty with a value offer is there is so much competition everywhere.”
He pointed out that shopping behaviours have changed. “People aren’t going to destination stores as much as they used to. The supermarkets are selling that type of product and they are more convenient.”
Honor Westnedge, analyst for Verdict Retail, agreed: “There are so many more family value footwear retailers targeting the same consumer, so Brantano’s offer has become less relevant. And its out-of-town locations are less convenient. People can go to the grocers for children’s footwear, or Clarks, or even Schuh or Office. They all have a better offer for family than they used to.”
Most observers Drapers spoke to thought a pre-pack deal was likely, as Brantano ultimately has a “viable” offer.
Westnedge said: “Although Brantano has struggled, it has a good brand name, people are aware of it and it has a consumer following. It may come back in a smaller format.”
But she warned that it would need to work on its brand image, review its pricing and look at how to drive footfall to stores: “It has become quite old fashioned. It hasn’t developed its business model quickly enough.”
Saunders said: “I think the model is viable, but it needs to be focused on being more specialists, as people think they are going to get something different to other value stores. Jones is in a much stronger, more aspirational position. For them it’s about getting their product range right and getting some really good third-party brands to give them credibility.”
Brantano’s administrator, PwC, said Jones is not affected by yesterday’s news.
One Jones supplier told Drapers he was still unable to get credit insurance for the footwear chain, but added that it appeared to trade well over Christmas: “We’ve had a good autumn/winter with Jones so far, so we’re not overly concerned, although we feel for the people at Brantano.
“Ethically, this sucks. Alteri bought the business for next to nothing and they could be putting thousands out of work.”
Another supplier said: “As far as we’ve been told, it doesn’t impact on Jones at all. As long as they are honest with suppliers, they will be fine. If they defaulted on payments, we wouldn’t supply them going forward, but they have been paying every bill on time.”
Brantano has 140 stores and 60 concessions in the UK. It lost £4.6m before tax last year, although sales increased by 6% to £100m.
Jones Bootmaker, which has 110 shops and 13 concessions in the UK, made a pre-tax profit of £315,000 for the year to December 31 2014. It made sales after exceptional items of £79.9m.
Macintosh, which still owns the Brantano chain outside of the UK, as well as European footwear retailers Manfield, Invito and Dolcis, appointed JJMC Huppertz and BWGP Meijs as joint administrators on December 22 2015.