John Kinnaird plots return to retail with new shoe chain

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The Independent Online

The serial retail entrepreneur John Kinnaird is trying to launch a new footwear chain just two months after his previous venture, the shoe retailer Faith, collapsed.

He plans to buy between 35 and 40 of the empty Faith stores on the high street and has also been speaking to footwear suppliers, including Moda in Pelle, about a potential supply deal.

Mr Kinnaird is working with his two former business partners, Dean Argent and Paul Drake, on the launch, although a name for the new chain has not yet been decided.

Despite three of his former retail businesses falling into administration over recent years, Mr Kinnaird's appetite for getting back into the market is undiminished and he plans to pump some of his own money into the new venture. He was at the helm of the defunct shoe chain Dolcis, the menswear retailer Envy, and Faith when they collapsed into administration. However, all the chains were troubled at the time he took them over.

Two days ago, Debenhams said it had agreed to acquire the Faith operations from its administrators. There are 115 Faith concessions in Debenhams' shops, but the department store has not taken any of the 78 standalone Faith stores on the high street. Faith had 1,700 staff when it appointed Mazars as administrator at the end of April after buckling under the weight of its debt of £13m.

Mr Kinnaird, who declined to comment, is thought to be talking to private equity firms, including Epic, about providing some financial backing for the new chain. Epic did not return calls.

The launch could be around three months away, but a pre-Christmas opening will depend on whether Mr Kinnaird decides to source shoes from Europe or Asia, where lead times are longer. But there is no guarantee he will get the venture off the ground.

Mr Kinnaird made his name working for the Scottish billionaire Sir Tom Hunter's Sports Division in the 1990s. He pocketed a tidy sum when Sir Tom sold it to JJB Sports in 1998.