Endless in 11th hour rescue of Jones Bootmaker
It was a close call but Jones Bootmaker appears to have been saved with 72 of its stores and 840 jobs preserved, a strong result given that administration and a fire sale appeared to beckon just a couple of days ago.
Bathstore owner Endless, a private equity firm, has bought the company for a figure believed to be £10.5 million. Endless said there is a lot of work to do but it sees lots of potential for the 160-year-old firm.
The deal was done under a pre-pack administration process whereby a buyer is ready to step in to buy the viable parts of the business as soon as administrators are called in. But while this can free businesses from the shackles of certain debts and leases on lossmaking stores, the process is a controversial one and there have been calls for it to be outlawed.
Previous owner Alteri Investors looked like it might scupper a rescue deal on Friday with Endless reported to be offering only £10 million while Alteri was sticking at £11 million. In the end, they seem to have met in the middle.
But while most jobs and stores are safe for now, as well as the firm’s head office, 31 outlets and around 260 jobs staff roles will be axed.
KPMG partner Will Wright, the joint administrator, said the deal “recognises the value of Jones as a strong and popular high street brand with a loyal customer base.” And he spoke of the achievement of rescuing “a high proportion of stores and preserving a large number of jobs, especially given the current economic pressures faced by retailers across the UK.”
Last week Alteri put its other shoe chain, Brantano, into administration. It had originally been acquired with Jones in late 2015 and several months later was put into administration by the firm, then quickly brought back. Alteri has had a tough time with its fashion-linked investment in recent periods, its Austin Reed ownership having also ended in administration.
While Jones will be the only footwear firm Endless owns, it does have previous experience in the area having previously owned shoe distributor Peter Black. And it will need to make the most of that experience as footwear retailers prove to be the biggest sufferers of a consumer shift away from fashion and onto experiences, as well as greater consumer caution pre-Brexit.
Data has shown specialist shoe stores seeing falling sales since the middle of last year with the big high street multi-category fashion retailers stealing more of their market share.
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