Ten years ago, Barratts was a chain of 254 medium-priced shoe stores and 353 concessions operating in the U.K and Ireland. and owned by Stylo, a public company controlled by the family of its chief executive, Michael Ziff. It had just started to diversify into the discount segment through a chain called PriceLess, and moved upmarket with the acquisition of Shellys, but both of these formats were subsequently divested.
Before its latest bankruptcy last November, the third one in its history, Barratts still had 75 stores and 23 concessions, employing 1,035 people, but one-quarter of them were shut down shortly after and all the others have now been ordered to close down by the court-appointed receivers, Duff & Phelps, except for 14 shops.
These 14 stores and their staff of 150 people have been taken over by Pavers, another British online and offline shoe retailer that is also very active India, for a reported sum of £247,000 (€299,283-$406,600).
The company's owner, Stuart Paver, says that he may be interested in acquiring an additional five to ten Barratts stores and to convert all the locations to the Pavers banner in bid to reach an annual turnover of more than £100 million (€299,283-$406,600) by next year, with a total of 130 stores in the U.K.
Pavers also operates 36 stores and 120 concessions in India. A few days ago, the retail brand got an award as “most admired footwear brand” in the country.
The 14 stores initially acquired by Pavers are going to continue to trade under the Barratts name for up to six months based on a licensing deal with a new company, W Barratts & Co., which has reportedly taken over the Barratts brand name and Barratts' online store for £360,000 (€122m-$165m).
W Barratts & Co. has been set up by Harvey Jacobson, chairman of the Jacobson Group, and Simon Robson, the former merchandising director of Barratts. Their future plans could not be determined at the time of going to press. Officials of the Jacobson Group described Barratts' acquisition as a personal investment by the company's relatively wealthy chairman. However, well-informed observers speculate that he and Robson want to concentrate on e-commerce under the well-known Barratts name, fitting the business into the Jacobson Group's growing global e-commerce platform.
Jacobson already operates virtual stores under the names of some of its brands. Just before Christmas, it went online with a Dolcis website, joining those that it runs for Ravel, Frank Wright, Gola Classic, Gola Sport, Babycham and Lotus.
Jacobson has taken over or licensed many of this important shoe brands in the last 15 years, but about half of its annual turnover of around £60 million (€72.7m-$98.8m) still comes from international trading and the private label business.
Harvey Jacobson, who is the son of a shoe retailer in Manchester, retired from day-to-day operations in the summer of 2011, passing on the general management of his group to its sales director, Tony Evans.
According to the British press, Barratts filed for bankruptcy last November after an unnamed investor indicated willingness to buy the business for £5 million (€6.1m-$8.2m) but then withdrew its offer, and after Barratts failed to obtain a loan of £3 million (€3.6m-$4.9m) to supply its stores with products for the Christmas selling season.