Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct is among five bidders to have made offers for footwear specialist Faith, it is understood.

A Sports Direct takeover of Faith would be a departure for the retailer, which has until now focused on its core areas of sports and outdoors clothing and products although it owns fashion brands such as Golddigga.

The retailer faces competition for Faith from private equity firms Epic and Endless, as well as investment and restructuring firms Hilco and GA Asset Advisors. A deal is expected within days.

Details of the offers are unknown, but it is understood some are based on the purchase of debt at a discount. Faith has debt of about £14m owed to Barclays, investor Agilo and management led by entrepreneur John Kinnaird.

Faith has 78 shops and 120 concessions, mainly in Debenhams. Kinnaird bought it out of administration in 2008. It was once owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint, which paid £64m for the business in 2004.

In a statement, Faith confirmed receipt of “a number of firm offers of investment” and said: “Management are working with their advisers Clearwater Corporate Finance to finalise terms which, once concluded, will see Faith with an investment structure in place to secure its long-term growth.”

Faith is understood to have returned to profit in the year to January 2010, when it generated EBITDA of £1.5m.

No comment was avilable from Sports Direct or Faith about the former’s interest in a deal.