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Office owner searches for buyer for the footwear chain

Lauretta Roberts
15 April 2020

Office owner Truworths is searching for a buyer for the footwear chain as the COVID-19 pandemic hits UK fashion and footwear retail hard.

South African group Truworths, which bought the chain in 2015 for an estimated £250m, has written to prospective bidders to say it would like to secure a deal "within a short time-frame", according to Sky News.

Business advisory firm Alvarez & Marsal has been appointed to handle the process for the 100-store chain.

Last year Office contemplated a CVA but ultimately ended up opting for store closures and a financial restructuring.

In September Truworths said it had secured an agreement with Standard Bank to receive a £32.5 million facility, which coupled with its £10.5 million in cash reserves, had been used to settle its debt.

It said at the time that around 15 of its stores would be closed when leases came up for renewal.

According to Sofie Willmott, lead analyst at GlobalData, the chain has struggled to compete with sports footwear and fashion retailers who eat into its territory.

“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.

Clothing & 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," Willmott said.

Office is not the only fashion and footwear chain searching for a buyer. Yesterday it was revealed that Oasis and Warehouse were on the brink of administration while talks with buyers were underway.

Lifestyle retailer Cath Kidston and fashion and furniture retailer Laura Ashley are also in distress with buyers being sought.

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