The retail entrepreneur John Kinnaird is in talks to buy struggling menswear chain Envy.
Mr Kinnaird, the boss of the shoe chain Dolcis, which went into administration last month, is in negotiations with a number of parties with a view to buying back some of the Dolcis stores and combining them with Envy to create a new company.
The Scottish entrepreneur, who is hoping to buy up around 30 of the stores still trading and the Dolcis brand, has already held exploratory talks with Dolcis landlords. At the same time, he is understood to be finalising plans to buy Envy.
Mr Kinnaird bought Dolcis from the fashion group Alexon, the London-listed retailer behind the Ann Harvey fashion stores, with the backing of Epic Private Equity, for £2.7m in December 2006. At the end of December 2007, Epic pulled out of the business and Mr Kinnaird has been in talks with a potential new backer ever since.
The administrator KPMG has already closed more than 30 Dolcis stores and concessions with the loss of almost 500 jobs at the retailer. KPMG, which said the company had been "a victim of the tough trading conditions" in the sector, added there have already been around 40 expressions of interest in the shoe chain.
Alexon, which has appointed Hawkpoint to oversee a strategic review of Envy, is considering paying suitors to take the loss-making division off its hands, according to reports. The group, which also operates Dash and Kaliko, would then be able to concentrate on its more profitable womenswear business. The menswear division made an operating loss of £2.7m last year and reported a £2.9m loss in the first half of this year.
High-street fashion retailers have been feeling the squeeze from the slowdown in consumer spending – both Next and M&S reported weak trading over the Christmas period. Shoe retailers have also been hit from competition from mainstream clothing chains such as New Look.