The chairman of shoe maker Fii Group on Monday said it had enjoyed a better-than-expected November in its Lotus and Frank Wright businesses and made a promising start to the current fiscal year.

Doug Ware also told shareholders at the Northampton-based firm's AGM that talks with unions over the closure of its Banbridge plant in Northern Ireland in early 2003 were continuing.

The company announced plans in October plans to axe its final UK factory and source offshore instead with the loss of 140 jobs. Ware said yesteday it had already placed orders with identified overseas suppliers.