Leicester footwear chain Shoe Zone targets better town centre sites
Shoe Zone is targeting better town centre locations as it looks to take advantage of the upheaval on the high street.
The Leicester-based low-cost footwear chain says a recent surge in store closures makes it easier to secure more attractive positions in towns and cities.
It comes after the group closed 131 under-performing stores as part of a shake-up of the business, taking it to just over 550 UK outlets.
Chief executive Anthony Smith said: "We don't want more shops, just better shops. For instance, in Derby we have just moved 10 to 15 units up the road and turnover has doubled."
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Recently-released accounts show Shoe Zone made a pre-tax profit of £5.3 million in the year to September 29, 2012, compared to a £7.6 million loss in the previous year. Turnover was up 41 per cent to £221 million in the same period.
Mr Smith said the group was on course to make a healthy profit again this year, helped by a strategy of relocating stores to busier positions.
"It's all about location," he said. "The property market is going to help retailers like us. Because so many people are going bust the availability on the high street is huge.
"The high street is becoming more flexible. I now only have to have a five-year lease. Before it was 10 to 15 years.
"I was in a town last week and there were 10 shops I was interested in. I just have to see who wants us more.
"I'm probably going to get the shop fit paid for by whoever I choose."
Mr Smith said the Shoe Zone store in Market Place, Leicester, was an ideal location.
"It's a great store for us," he said. "It's superb."
In the past few months, a number of a big-name retailers, including Leicester-based camera chain Jessops, have collapsed, leading to the closure of hundreds of stores nationwide.
Shoe Zone employs more than 4,000 people, including 300 at its head office in Haramead Business Centre, off Humberstone Road, Leicester, and another 40 staff at stores in Leicester, Loughborough and Melton.
The company closed 131 of its 230 mid-market Stead & Simpson stores between October and December 2012. A statement from the directors issued alongside the latest accounts said: "As a number of these stores were making a negative contribution, we are confident the long-term impact will be very positive, protecting the profitability of the group."
The company, whose Shoe Zone brand specialises in affordable products, said the return to profit in the last financial year followed a management overhaul and shorter supply times from China.
"It's all about being fit for the future," said Mr Smith.