Staff at Shoe Zone-owned footwear chain Stead & Simpson have lambasted management for shutting shops “by stealth”.

Employees fear that owner Shoe Zone is preparing to close up to 100 shops, according to The Sun.

Stores in Tewkesbury, Romsey, Dereham, Bath, King’s Lynn, North Walsham and Burgess Hill have all been shut in the last month.

One employee told the newspaper that management had not told staff what was going on: “They appear to be downsizing to safeguard the future of the firm.”

Shoe Zone declined to comment on the closures and issued a statement insisting it was “business as usual”.

Shoe Zone acquired Stead & Simpson out of administration in 2008.