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Cash injection and supplier rethink kick off Stead & Simpson's recovery

Footwear group Stead & Simpson is hoping that a strategy overhaul and a £30 million refinancing package will help to turn it around under new chief executive David White.

The four-fascia company - which comprises Stead & Simpson, Shoe Express, Lilley & Skinner and Peter Briggs - summoned 120 suppliers to thrash out its future, detailing a new buying and merchandising strategy and a raft of senior appointments. A shake-up of its store portfolio was also outlined, including rebranding Shoe Express, according to sources.

To support the changes at the group, White has hired Tony Jones, who was previously interim finance director at garden centre group Wyevale, in the newly created role of chief operating officer. Jones will oversee logistics, IT and finance.

Louise Bromwich will join in June as head of merchandising from accessories chain Claire's. She will be tasked with improving stock levels.

The group is to cut the number of SKUs dramatically across its fascias. It is understood that it typically runs at one and half times excess stock levels, with 5,200 options across the portfolio.

The company's operational structure will also change. Shoe Express and Lilley & Skinner will be rolled into one division with separate operational heads, area managers and buying teams, while Stead & Simpson and Peter Briggs will form another division with the same set-up. The levels of branded product in the Stead & Simpson fascia are likely to increase as it moves away from own label value-led product.

The buying and merchandising teams from both divisions will report to group buying and merchandising boss Roger Parr.

Sources told Drapers that supplier terms may be renegotiated in the coming months, as Stead & Simpson called on suppliers to be more flexible in relation to holding back stock and allowing it to receive deliveries at different times.

One supplier, who responded well to the plans, told Drapers the retailer wanted more flexibility on deliveries. "It has set out its stall and plans to run a tighter ship," he said.

The group, which has just over 400 stores, broke its banking covenants with financier HBOS in January. According to sources, a refinancing deal will see the bank turn £10m of Stead & Simpson's debt into new equity, write off £12m of debt and inject £8m into the business.

The capital will be invested in the property portfolio and will finance the rebranding of discount arm Shoe Express. The new fascia, which is understood to be either Shoeology or Pose, will be unveiled in Wigan in Lancashire this July. The roll-out and conversion is expected to start in the second half of the year.

The group will also axe a few unprofitable shops, while store swaps between fascias within the group could also occur.

Stead & Simpson was unavailable for comment.


- £30 million refinancing package

- New buying strategy, including a shift towards branded product for Stead & Simpson

- Shoe Express to be rebranded

- Senior appointments, including a new chief operating officer

- Possible new supplier terms.

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