Footwear retailer Brantano plans to open 50 UK stores in the next five years as it expects to make a pre-tax profit for the first time since 2005.

The 147-store out-of-town retailer wants to have 200 shops by 2015 and is to open in small towns. The retailer has hired property agent Cushman & Wakefield to seek locations.

Brantano managing director David Short said: “Now is the time to acquire stores. We perform particularly well in smaller locations, where we tend to dominate.”

Short said the loss-making business “needed a radical strategy” when he joined in 2008. The retailer has focused on better buying and sourcing direct from the Far East and improved retail operations and expects to make a profit in the year to December 2010.

“We anticipate making a positive EBITDA this year and probably pre-tax profit too,” said Short.

In the year to December 31, 2009, pre-tax losses narrowed from £8.8m to £4.6m while turnover declined 1.8% to £107.46m.

Short, who described current trade as “steady”, said: “We’ve made a lot of progress in two years. There’s been a lot of margin improvement.”

Two years ago 40% of Brantano’s shops were loss making.

Short said that the retailer has “now turned around a lot of those stores” and they make a profit. It has also managed to dispose of some loss-making stores to other retailers.

Brantano, a mid-market family footwear brand, has embarked on a store refit programme, improving the flooring, increasing the lighting level and adding contemporary graphics and signposting. Each refit costs about £30,000. Short said: “Some stores were looking very tired so we have invested in a low-cost refit programme, which has made a radical change to the way they look.”

So far 14 have been converted and another 25 will be completed in the first half of 2011. Brantano is also testing another store model in Peterborough that will allow it to open smaller stores on higher rental retail parks but keep costs down.

Brantano is part of Dutch company Macintosh Retail Group.