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Silverfleet can’t wait for Office party

You’ve got to be surefooted to be splashing out more than £100m on a business just 11 days before Christmas. But private equity firm Silverfleet Capital did just that as Drapers went to press.

You’ve got to be surefooted to be splashing out more than £100m on a business just 11 days before Christmas. But private equity firm Silverfleet Capital did just that as Drapers went to press.

Footwear chain Office was the target, having scored an incredible couple of years’ trading thanks to brands like Ugg, Converse and Vans which sit happily alongside Office’s higher-margin catwalk-driven women’s collections.

That autumn has been a phenomenal boot season, which has boosted the coffers of many footwear specialists, will no doubt have given Silverfleet the confidence to sign now rather than wait to see the chain’s Christmas trading figures. It will be interesting to watch the specialists’ like-for-like sales come Christmas 2011 though.

Office’s management team should be praised for turning what was a small £16m chain in 2003 into the major player it is today. It took a few years to get there but they now have a solid formula and a real niche on the high street. It should also be noted that Office’s outgoing owner Sir Tom Hunter - in spite of all of the criticism thrown at him about his strategies for USC and Qube - was actually the man that ultimately made this deal and growth story possible.

Hunter himself is said to be eyeing Scottish designer mini-chain Cruise as a possible next project. It has just 12 stores and a wealth of problems to address. Ultimately it will be the suppliers like Prada, Gucci and Hugo Boss that decide the fate of this much-loved business though. Without them, Hunter cannot realistically mount a turnaround. Whether any business can survive on the margins of brands like these alone is also doubtful, but I’d like to see Hunter - the oft-cited ultimate market trader - take on the challenge of the luxury sector.

Drapers will be back on January 7, but we will be posting live news updates on Drapersonline.com throughout the crucial Christmas trading period. Make sure you activate your subscription to access news as it happens. Here’s to a prosperous New Year.

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