Blog: Leonie BarrieShoe sellers must up their game

Leonie Barrie | 18 February 2008

The sale of Dolcis to arch rival Stylo last week marks the end of the line for one of the UK’s best-known high street shoe chains. Bradford-based Stylo intends to rename the stores under its Barratts and PriceLess brands, and just 300 staff out of more than 1000 employed by Dolcis will keep their jobs.
But despite recent weeks seeing a reshuffle of the UK footwear sector – a fortnight ago footwear retailer Shoe Zone snapped up the Stead & Simpson chain – it seems there was no shortage of interest in the Dolcis business. Around 40 potential buyers made enquiries, the administrators said.

For Stylo chairman Michael Ziff, the deal will help “speed up consolidation and Dolcis is our biggest rival.”

Indeed, consolidation is a major theme in the UK shoe sector at the moment. In just-style’s analysis of the market and its recent upheaval, it is clear that footwear specialists can fight back against rising costs by expanding the size of their businesses.

There are also signs that increasing competition from fashion retailers such as New Look, Topshop and Primark, for whom footwear has been an obvious source of extra revenue and offers the convenience of enabling consumers to buy a complete outfit under one roof, is also helping to invigorate the market.
Low prices mean higher volumes of shoes are being sold, with estimates suggesting that the footwear market in the UK grew by 4.6% in 2007 to GBP5,484m – the footwear market's fastest rate of growth since 2003.

Until now, traditional shoe sellers just haven’t been up to the challenge, but the first signs are starting to appear that there is a future for the high street footwear specialist – although they must up their game to survive.

Will Dolcis sale kick-start the shoe sector?


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