After a difficult selling period last fall, Stead & Simpson’s long-time chief executive, David Lockyer, has left the company. He is being replaced by David White, who comes from WH Smith Travel Retail, where he was chief operating officer.

White was recruited by Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS), the investment arm of Bank of Scotland, which acquired 23 percent of the retail chain at the end of 2005 as part of a £51.4 million (€75.5m-$98.9m) management buyout in which Lockyer participated, after running the company for 10 years.

HBOS is currently reviewing various re-financing options for the retail group. One of the options is a possible equity increase, which may lead to a dilution of Lockyer’s shareholding in the firm.

Stead & Simpson has 420 outlets in the UK under the Stead & Simpson, Shoe Express, Famous Footwear, Peter Briggs and Lilly & Skinner banners.

White is reorganizing Stead & Simpson’s marketing and merchandising strategies. At the company’s head office about 10-15 employees could be let go. For merchandising, the company’s goal is to bring its product more in line with what the average UK customer wants.

Any overall shift in the way the company merchandises will not be seismic. It has been de-emphasizing children’s shoes at many of its outlets because they are difficult to stock and service.

Sales were down for the British retailer in 2006, but the privately held company would not yet disclose exact figures. Like other retailers, it was hurt by unseasonably warm weather.

Lockyer is said to be planning to retire and spend more time at home and on his boat. Some sources have indicated that he will not stray far from the shoe industry, and while he has denied plans to start his own retail business, no one has ruled out a possible return in some form or another.