Footwear supplier Browning Group has ceased trading after 23 years blaming tough trading conditions, the weakness of the sterling and a lack of available credit insurance for making it an unviable business. The uncertainty surrounding the future of Stylo, its largest customer, is also thought to have been a factor.
Browning said it would fulfil all outstanding orders but added that recent changes to the footwear and retail markets had made it difficult for it to turn a profit. It had sales of around £56 million in 2007 but made a pre-tax loss of £583,000.
Some 34 staff are in consultation.
Browning Group’s largest customer was Stylo, which owns the Barratts and Priceless chains. Stylo is in the process of trying to get support from suppliers and landlords for a CVA proposal to prevent the group from going into adminstration. Barratts and Priceless are already in administration pending the outcome of a creditor vote on the CVA proposals on Thursday. Under the proposals footwear suppliers would be paid outstanding monies over a 14 month period. Suppliers are thought to be owed somewhere in the region of £10m.
The Stylo situation is understood to have been one factor in Browning Group’s decision to shut down, although sources said it was not a major factor.
Browning Group owner and managing director Daniel Rubin said: “It is very sad that we have decided to cease trading. Supplying multiple retailers in today’s climate is extremely challenging and in our assessment the returns do not justify the risks.”
Meanwhile Maxgreat International, a far Eastern supplier to Browning Group, is to open an office in the UK. It has hired Browning Group sales directors Susannah Huller and Bridgit Turnbull to represent it. It hopes to pick up some of Browning Group’s orders direct from retailers.
Rubin said: “This direct sourcing is more suited to current market conditions and will enable retailers to receive excellent customer service at competitive prices.”
Rubin also owns fashion footwear chain Dune. Dune is unaffected by the closure of Browning.