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April 15, 2020

Office-owner weighing up sale of footwear chain?

The South African owner of UK footwear chain Office is reportedly mulling a sale of the business.

By Hannah Abdulla

The South African owner of UK footwear chain Office is reportedly mulling a sale of the business.

According to Sky News, professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) has been appointed by parent company Truworths International to explore a sale of the 130-strong retail store chain.

The report claims information sent to prospective bidders said it was “anticipated that a sale will be completed within a short time-frame.”

Last July, Office confirmed it had entered into debt restructuring talks with lenders to explore options for the business. 

At the time Truworths International, which acquired the chain in 2015, said Office has around GBP45m (US$56m) worth of debt, a significant portion of which will be settled through a lump sum payment maturing in December 2020.

A&M and Truworths International could not be reached at the time of going to press.

Yesterday (14 April), fellow UK retailers Oasis and Warehouse were speculated to be close to collapsing into administration.

The move would follow on the heels of department store group Debenhams, which fell into administration last week; and Laura Ashley, which permanently closed 70 stores as administrators took over the company. UK-based fashion and accessories retailer Monsoon Accessorize has also said it is weighing up options to secure the business’s future.

Sofie Willmott, lead analyst at Globaldata, notes despite its broad range of desirable casual trainer brands, Office has been outshone by both multichannel and online rivals in the form of JD Sports and Asos, with range overlap the primary reason for the specialist’s difficulties.

“Although its inventory is less seasonal than its clothing counterparts’ and it has a better chance of selling through its stock once stores reopen, it is not a branded destination and is not top of mind for its target customer base,” she says.

“Clothing and footwear is forecast to be the hardest hit sector by the Covid-19 pandemic with UK spend expected to fall over 20% and footwear set to fare worse than clothing as consumers forgo purchasing new shoes.”

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