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Will footwear live happily ever after?

It has been another frenzied week of footwear news, with Shoe Zone’s incredible rescue deal for Stead & Simpson.

The fairytale ending to what was becoming a horror story for the sector will soften the blow to those suppliers also hit by the collapse of Dolcis. That 2,700 jobs in the sector have been saved is a true blessing.

The consensus is that Shoe Zone boss Anthony Smith’s move on Stead & Simpson may be the turning point for the sector. He should be praised for having the ‘cobbler’s awls’ to kick-start the consolidation so desperately needed.

Little is known about Smith – he prefers to hide behind his racks of two-for-£10 courts – but this week he proved himself to be sharper than a leather-cutting clicker knife.

His acquisition of Shoefayre from the Co-operative Group last year had the industry foxed – what can you do with a portfolio of 600 stores all in the same towns? – but Smith knew there was a chance he could pick up Stead & Simpson for a song if he was prepared to wait. And for Smith it seems Stead & Simpson plus Shoe Zone plus Shoefayre equals unrivalled scope on the high street.

But we should not forget why Stead & Simpson became a disaster zone in the first place. The portfolio is antiquated and Smith will certainly have to throw money at shopfits to gain credibility. He also faces a potential supplier tug of war with Stylo, which is overhauling Barratts.

In the background, the Dolcis saga rumbles on. I suspect most of the 40 expressions of interest are around bundles of stores rather than as a going concern. But after the week we’ve had, perhaps there is a ‘mad’ shoe man ready to make a play…

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