THE private equity investor behind the rescue of one of the oldest names on the British high street said the brand had ‘massive growth potential’ and revealed plans to expand its retail footprint and boost online sales.
Leeds-based turnaround specialist Endless acquired the business and assets of Jones Bootmaker in an £11m deal, saving 72 stores and the head office, on Friday.
Speaking to The Yorkshire Post today, Andrew Smith, partner who led the investment for Endless, said: “There are strong headwinds in the retail space but because we have got a great product, great people and a heritage brand, we will be able to come out stronger. It will be an exciting project for us and one which we’re going to work hard on to make a success.”
Jones was owned by Alteri Investors, whose “value” shoe chain Brantano collapsed last week. Endless bought the profitable parts of the business under a “pre-pack” administration deal.
The deal safeguarded 840 roles at the 160-year-old retailer but meant that 25 underperforming stores and six concessions closed immediately with the loss of 262 jobs.
The Yorkshire stores, which include Harrogate, Beverley, Sheffield and York, are unaffected by the closures.
Mr Smith said Endless faced a ‘difficult journey’ to separate Jones from Brantano and create a stable platform for growth. The two retailers share a head office in Hinckley, Leicestershire.
But he confirmed that once Endless had stabilised the business, it planned to open new stores across the UK, including one in Leeds following the closure of the Briggate store last year, and target overseas expansion.
“We need to have a store in Leeds,” he said. “We will have a store roll-out over time but we need to make sure all our stores are in the right locations. We will employ more people as we roll them out.”
Only nine per cent of Jones’s sales are online but Endless plans to increase this to 25 per cent, in line with other retailers.
Key to Jones’s future success will be Sarah Davies, the former Dorothy Perkins buying director, who was appointed chief product officer last year.
Mr Smith said: “We have got a great product for spring/summer. Sarah Davies has changed the supply base and our product is now back to where it should be.
“It’s all about the product because in retail if you have a poor product you are dead. We think the product is right and we have to get that to market and market it well. It is a new and better quality product than in the previous three years.”
As part of the sales process, Will Wright, Steve Absolom and Blair Nimmo of KPMG were appointed joint administrators.
Mr Wright said: “This deal recognises the value of Jones as a strong and popular high street brand with a loyal customer base.”
Steve Absolom, joint administrator at KPMG, added: “Over the coming days, our priority is to ensure all employees who have been affected by redundancy receive the information and guidance they need in order to claim monies owed from the Redundancy Payments Office.”
Jones, which was established in 1857, sells shoes for men and women under its own brand name and also a range of well-known high end brands.
Endless is an experienced retail investor with recent investments including The Works Stores, Bathstore.com and The West Cornwall Pasty Company.
It also has experience of the footwear sector from its former ownership of Peter Black International which was one of the UK’s largest footwear distributors.
The acquisition of Jones by Endless was completed in nine days from the initial indicative offer. Mr Smith was assisted by Michael Rice, Indra Harrison, Stefan Nowakowski and Paul Denvers.
Times of unprecedented change but retailers can ‘still win’
High street brands have a ‘future of trepidation’ but they can still win, according to a Yorkshire retail expert.
Kate Hardcastle, founder of business consultancy Insight with Passion, said retailers were having to work harder than ever to make their brands stand out.
Currently about 20 per cent of shopping is done online.
She said: “Whilst we hear of big changes at legendary brand names, we should not be surprised. These are times of unprecedented change in the high street.”
She added: “The wise consumers who are taking control of their spending - and rightly too - means the high street has a future of trepidation - but retailers can still win. The consumer craves great service and expertise not more bland brands.”