Edinburgh Woollen Mill and Pavers are among the firms circling struggling footwear retailers Jones Bootmaker and Brantano, Drapers understands.
Both Jones and Brantano have filed notice of intention to appoint administrators.
The administration notice protects the retailers from creditors seeking to recover debts. Both businesses could still be sold as a going concern and Drapers understands the two are being dealt with separately.
Several footwear sources told Drapers rival footwear chain Pavers has expressed interest in picking up Jones.
“Pavers makes sense as they have a similar demographic and they have said previously that they wanted to expand their high street portfolio,” said one source.
One source said another buyer had expressed interest in a selection of key stores and the rest of the portfolio was now being offered out to other parties.
Kurt Geiger was initially thought to be interested in the Jones Bootmaker brand name, but not its shops or staff. However, Drapers understands it has pulled out of the running to buy the retailer.
A number of private equity firms have also shown interest in both chains, according to footwear insiders.
One source indicated that Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group, which owns Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Peacocks, Jane Norman and Austin Reed, among others, is interested in buying Brantano. He said the group was interested in putting some of its brands into Brantano as shop-in-shops, and vice-versa.
Drapers understands Brantano staff only found out the business was up for sale this week. Advisers at KPMG were appointed to explore options for Jones last month.
One source close to the situation said this may be because a buyer has already been lined up for a pre-pack administration for Brantano.
Suppliers for both retailers have expressed concern over recovering their debts. One said he has delayed stock due to be shipped to Jones as he has not been able to reach anyone at the Jones or Brantano head office.
“It has been radio silence from them so we have to be prudent.”
Another supplier, who claims to be owed a six figure sum by Jones, said he was concerned but not panicking. “Our brand does very well for Jones so whoever buys it will likely want to continue to work with us and I’ll only continue to supply them if a deal is made on what’s owed to us.”
However, he continued: “It’s bad for the high street and the shoe business whatever way you look at it. It’s another British shoe business going under and it will make it harder for UK firms to source product from abroad as brands will be nervous.”
Alteri bought Jones Bootmaker and Brantano UK for €17m (£12.2m) from now bankrupt Dutch firm Macintosh in October 2015. Brantano then fell into administration in January 2016, before being bought back by Alteri a month later.
Alteri and Kurt Geiger declined to comment. Pavers and EWM have yet to respond to request for comments.