A rival retailer has made a bid to buy struggling middle-market shoe company, the Oliver Group, which trades under names such as Timpsons and Olivers Timpson. The Leicester-based Oliver Group, which has around 270 stores nationwide, has been hit by falling consumer spending on footwear. Now Benson Shoe, a privately-owned discount footwear retailer with more than 180 stores in the UK and Ireland, trading as Discount Shoe Zone and Tylers and Tylers Express, has made an offer to buy Oliver. Oliver has reported losses for the last three financial years to January 29 2000. According to figures, spending on footwear in 1998 and 1999 was weak. In a report outlining the offer, it says that footwear multiples such as Oliver have consistently lost market share to, inter alia, clothing multiples and discount retailers. Competitive forces and consumer price stability have produced an environment of at its best flat, and at worst, deflationary, says the report. The report says that Oliver has worked hard to contain its costs and has fought back with a programme of store rationalisation and upgrading. In the last three years, it has closed 58 stores, opened 16 and undertaken extensive refurbishment of a further 65. But although the refurbished stores have performed well, their results have been unable to compensate for the under performance of the unrefurbished stores, the report says. It goes on to argue that although Benson has fewer retail outlets than Oliver, its private company status, commercial infrastructure and supportive financiers mean that Benson appears better placed to implement the changes that Oliver needs. Commenting on the bid, chairman of the Oliver Group, Doug Rogers, said: "The recommended offer for Oliver by Benson Shoe is a welcome move in the overdue consolidation of the UK footwear retail sector. "The terms of Benson Shoe's offer will allow Oliver's shareholders to exit an under-performing investment at a fair and reasonable price."