Footwear industry insiders have expressed concern over the future of Jones Bootmaker after owner Alteri Investors put the retailer up for sale this week.
Turnaround investment company Alteri has appointed advisers at KPMG to explore options for Jones, which could include a sale or putting it into administration.
Since Alteri bought Jones in 2015 the firm has replatformed the website, made senior hires on the design team and outsourced warehousing and store deliveries to DHL. It also moved the head office to a bigger unit in Hinckley, Leicestershire.
However, footwear sources have told Drapers Jones still needs significant investment to turn it around and some fear administration could be used to shed unprofitable stores.
“The most likely outcome will be it will go through a pre-pack administration,” said one footwear retail insider. “Someone might buy 40 profitable stores and run it as a small niche retailer but no one wants more than 100 stores in this market.
“Jones is still regarded by many as a good brand but it has changed ownership so many times in recent years and none of them were able to make it significantly profitable. The biggest problem will be finding someone willing to make the kind of investment it needs to get it back on track.”
He added that back-office operations that were shared with sister footwear retailer Brantano could also be a factor: “It is messy as it is so linked to Brantano – they share so many services and costs. The question is whether one is viable without the other.”
Another footwear source agreed that the retailer needs to be restructured: “I believe it will need to go through an administration to give the new owners a fighting chance. The current owners have no appetite to invest more money into it, so it must need a lot of investment and a restructure. It is a nice brand but it has struggled greatly in the last few years. Hopefully it won’t go under, as that would be a real shame.”
One footwear supplier said trade had been difficult for Jones over the last year: “I understand it had a very tough year last year and they have lost a lot of good people. It has been through so many people’s hands and no one seems to be able to make it work. Whoever takes it on will need to have a lot of cash behind them to get it back on its feet.”
Alteri bought Jones Bootmaker and Brantano UK for €17m (£12.2m) from now bankrupt Dutch firm Macintosh in October 2015.
The following January Brantano fell into administration. A month later Alteri bought the majority of Brantano out of administration for £7m, saving 81 stores, 59 concessions and 1,372 jobs. The sale excluded 57 stores and one concession.
In September 2016, David Short stepped down as chief executive of the two retailers and former Arnotts CEO David Riddiford was appointed as executive chairman.
Jones, which has 108 shops and 13 concessions in the UK, made a pre-tax profit of £315,000 for the year to 31 December 2014, the most recent results available. It made sales after exceptional items of £79.9m.
Alteri Investors declined to comment.