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Faith left standing by pace of change

It is somewhat poignant that as Drapers brings you its Spring 09 Footwear and Accessories Special, we are debating the future of one of the nation’s best known footwear players, Faith.

Managers at the high street chain, which runs about 80 stores and 100 concessions in the UK, have called in financial adviser Baker Tilly to investigate a possible sale of the business. Its bank, Barclays, had previously appointed FYI Consulting to do the same, having rejected a debt for equity offer and £8 million cash injection from its private equity owner Bridgepoint Capital.

It wasn’t that long ago – just before its sale to Bridgepoint in 2004 – that Faith was on top of its game with a fashion-focused offer that had a loyal following. But the high street footwear market is a very different place now from the one it was four years ago. Back then New Look was only just beginning its assault on the market and Primark was nowhere in shoes; now fashion multiples claim almost 30% of the footwear market. Several specialists simply couldn’t keep up or compete on price. Faith for instance racked up losses of £12.5m between 2006 and 2007.

Several other big names have completely withdrawn from the high street footwear retail scene, including Shellys, Stead & Simpson, Dolcis and Ravel – although happily Shellys and Ravel haven’t disappeared altogether, with both of them still surviving as wholesale brands. What fate awaits Faith is difficult to gauge at this stage. Its product and stores had begun to find some form again lately; let’s just hope that improvement doesn’t prove to have been too little, too late.

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