Start-rite Shoes mulls sale option to secure funds for export strategy

Bosses at Start-rite Shoes said a sale of the business could be an option as it looks to bring in new investment to take the brand across the globe. The children’s footwear firm sells most of its shoes in the UK, but chairman Peter Lamble said it wanted to export more shoes overseas. However, to do that, the firm needs to attract substantial third party investment, likely to be around seven figures, and Mr Lamble admitted that such an outlay could trigger a sale of the business, though he stressed no final decisions has been taken.

“We are looking at a lot of options,” he said. “It’s one of the options being considered.

“We talked to the staff about what might happen. It could be that we would look for an equity partner, but once you start looking for that you have to consider the possibility that somebody might want 100pc.”

The firm, whose headquarters is at Broadland Business Park, is working with independent advisory firm Spayne Lindsay to help secure the investment.

But he said that while the firm had global ambitions he believed that any potential investor would want to maintain its links with the city.

“We have got a fantastic brand, and we feel there are opportunities to grow, but we do not have the muscle to get them,” he added. “We are a relatively small player in the market, and we are the same size we have been for the last 10 years.

“We have got this Great British heritage brand, but we are probably 90pc UK, but most heritage brands out there are mostly international.

“That heritage is completely intertwined with Norwich, and I think it would be really foolish to give that up.

“It’s very early days, I would expect that we would know a lot more by the end of the year, or early next year.

“I imagine if you are looking at expanding internationally, there are overseas retailers who would be good to work with.”

Start-rite employs about 100 people in Norwich and another 100 at 13 of its One Small Step, One Large Leap stores across the country. He said most of its shoes are made in India, although last year Mr Lamble said the firm had upped its production in Portugal and Spain, because hight inflation and rising wages in China was making the EU more cost competitive.

Last year it had sales of more than £24m, up from £17.1m, and is set to make profits of about £850,000, bouncing back from the previous £354,000 figure.

He said: “We’ve had quite a good year, where we have grown our sales and profits quite a bit.”

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