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British Footwear Brand Goes Bankrupt

U.K. firm Steptronic Footwear Ltd. on Wednesday fell into administration, what Americans better know as bankruptcy

The men’s shoe brand has appointed James Saunders and Michael Lennon of Kroll as joint administrators, Steptronic said. The company’s warranty and terms and conditions don’t apply to sales made during bankruptcy.

The company is known for its sheepskin linings, premium leathers, cushioned foot beds and flexible 100 percent rubber soles. “We invest heavily in design and innovation. Our unique integrated flex system allows the footwear to flex through 90 degrees—all of our footwear is, as standard, made to a wider ‘G’ fit [that] allows for luxurious cushioned support,” Steptronic said.

Launched in 2009, Steptronic has over 3,000 high street stores and online outlets, plus e-commerce, and is sold in 30 countries.

While all of fashion suffered when lockdowns descended in March 2020, men’s was particularly hard hit as office workers making the transition to remote had little need for dress shoes and formal suits. Suit sales have been on the decline for years, and accelerated during the pandemic. Steptronic markets brogues, Oxfords, boots and some casual styles, but doesn’t offer performance footwear styles.

The U.K. has seen several fashion labels fall on hard times.

Shirtmaker T.M. Lewin in July 2020 shut down all 66 stores and laid off most of its 700 employees to shift sales online and stave off administration.

Moss Bros., another men’s wear retailer, avoided administration in December 2020 by winning creditor approval to enter into a company voluntary agreement, an insolvency procedure allowing the company to pay creditors over a fixed period. Moss Bros. bounced back with a new monthly subscription rental service called Moss Box, powered by apparel rental technology platform CaaStle.

Men’s supplier Prominent Europe, which also owns men’s wear brand Chester Barrie, in April 2021 began an orderly shutdown. And in September 2021, Marks & Spencer stopped stocking suits in most of its stores. More casual suiting will be available in just 110 doors, or 43 percent of the retailer’s 254 stores across the U.K.

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Footwear inventories are running lean, thanks to supply issues that many believe will settle down later this year. Women’s fashion footwear and men’s dress shoes have been lagging behind sport-leisure, performance and outdoor footwear categories since the pandemic began. And while workers in corporate America are returning to their offices, past research from The NPD Group has shown that more than 50 percent of consumers now wear casual sneakers to work, while less than 20 percent sport dress styles. In January, NPD sports industry advisor Matt Powell predicted that 2022 would be another strong year for running, walking and hiking. Performance running, specifically, will benefit as it returns as streetwear, with Puma and On leading the shift, he said. In fact, with casual footwear expected to grow, Crocs in December said it would expand its presence in the category through a $2.5 billion purchase of privately held Heydude.