Footwear retailers Brantano and Jones Bootmaker are set for a new lease of life after being taken over by new owner Alteri Investments.

Dutch owner Macintosh was so keen to dispose of the two retailers that it flogged them yesterday for just £12m – a book loss of £38m.

However, Alteri sees potential in the two businesses despite them having recorded losses of €1.8m (£1.3m) in the third quarter.

Verdict’s lead retail analyst Honor Westnedge believes funding from Alteri will be much needed and blames the previous lack of investment on them losing market share and leaving them in “very difficult positions” in an increasingly competitive market.

Market shifts

Brantano’s family value offer has faced huge competition from the grocers’ entry into children’s footwear, while Jones’s upper-to-mid-market proposition has been squeezed by clothing retailers such as Next and Marks & Spencer upping their footwear presence.

“People have traded down, because of the economic crisis, to the mid-market retailers such as Next,” says Westnedge.

Shoe Zone is another retailer that has felt the squeeze by the changing shape of the market, according to Westnedge.

Yesterday Shoe Zone revealed it expects full-year revenues to drop 3.5% this year to £166.8m “reflecting the continued planned closure of loss-making stores”.

Westnedge adds that while this has all been happening Kurt Geiger, Dune and Office have been gaining market share through investing in multichannel and giving stores “destination appeal”.

Cost-saving measures

Conlumino global research director Maureen Hinton believes Macintosh neglected to pay enough attention to Brantano and Jones and believes it needed to focus on them more because the UK is “even more competitive” than its core European markets.

Hinton believes Alteri will “need to take a long-hard look” at its new acquisitions to discover where they can save some costs.

”They need to invest in the channels that will produce the best returns and make sure they have the right store configuration”

Maureen Hinton, Conlumino

“I’m sure they will not just throw lots of money at it,” says Hinton. “They need to analyse the businesses and invest in the channels that will produce the best returns and make sure they have the right store configuration.”

Jones Bootmaker and Brantano have 170 and 120 stores and concessions in the UK respectively and employ 3,500 staff between them.

Brantano stores are primarily out-of-town and Westnedge believes the pick-up in out-of-town retailing could help it make a success of the turnaround, while store refurbishments are needed at Jones to help it compete with the likes of Kurt Geiger and Dune.

Resurfacing

Westnedge argues there is hope for Brantano and Jones if they remind customers of their strengths, which includes “depth of range and service”.

Both Brantano and Jones have carried out minimal marketing in recent years due to lack of investment, but with Alteri now on the scene this could soon change.

“They have gone off the radar, but it is best to get the offer right before you invest in the marketing,” warns Hinton.

It will be an uphill struggle for Alteri based on the amount of neglect Brantano and Jones have suffered of late.

Having only bought the businesses for £12m and with some canny investments then the potential return on investment for Alteri is huge.

And if that is a case there will be a spring in everybody’s step.