Shoe Zone mergers kick the crunch

SHOE ZONE, the bargain retailer that saved the Stead &amp; Simpson and Shoe Express chains from administration, recorded an &pound;8.1m pre-tax profit last year.<br /><br />Although overall operating profit was down from &pound;8m to &pound;6.9m, accounts show the company&rsquo;s recent acquisitions &ndash; Stead &amp; Simpson, which it snatched from the jaws of closure and Shoefayre, the loss-making business bought from the Co-operative Group &ndash; were back in the black. The purchases turned an operating profit of &pound;750,000. Before Shoe Zone picked them up them last year they lost around &pound;10m between them.<br /><br />When it took over Shoefayre in late 2007 Shoe Zone added around 240 stores to its portfolio. The consolidation of Stead &amp; Simpson a few months later boosted its total number of shops to 800.<br /><br />The bolt-on acquisitions brought in &pound;63m in sales, bringing group annual sales to &pound;237.6m. Shoe Zone claims its prices are 40 per cent below the high street average, which may have helped it weather the savage pullback in consumer spending. The company paid no dividends.<br /><br />In documents filed withCompanies House, chief executive Anthony Smith said he was &ldquo;delighted&rdquo; with the year&rsquo;s performance. He said: &ldquo;Trade in 2009 has been strong and we are encouraged by the outlook for the rest of the year. &ldquo;Looking into 2010 and beyond we are optimistic that business will continue to progress as our refit programme on the acquired Shoefayre and Stead &amp; Simpson businesses is completed.&rdquo;<strong><br />FAST FACTS COMPANY<br /></strong>Founded in 1917 as Bensonshoe, Shoe Zone now sells around 30m pairs of footwear yearly<br />The company has been a major consolidator in the sector, buying Tylers in the late 1980s and Oliver Group in 2000 before its recent spree<strong></strong>

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