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Stead and Simpson sells great quality footwear and handbags at affordable prices from over 220 stores throughout the UK.
In 1834 Mr Edmund Stead and Mr Edward Simpson set up business in Leeds as leather merchants and curriers. They were an ambitious and hardworking pair and by 1860 had expanded into manufacturing, producing boots and shoes that were sold to shopkeepers and dealers. They quickly opened a new factory employing over 500 workers where the newly invented sewing machine was put to good use. Further factories were opened in Daventry and Leicester, where the first Goodyear Welting Machine was installed.
As the business grew, boots were supplied to the British Army and Navy along with wholesale at home and abroad, most notably to Australia where large quantities of Wellingtons were shipped to.
In 1863, the founders brought on board their nephews - Mr Fawcett and Mr Simpson Gee and after Mr Stead retired in 1878, the business became known as "Stead, Simpson & Nephews".
During the 1870’s, whilst the success of the Leicester factory grew (particularly in womens footwear) and exports continued to Australia, South Africa and South America, the company ventured into the retail market opening its first outlets in Carlisle, Whitehaven, South Shields and Sunderland. Retail quickly became an important part of the business and by 1889 there were 100 outlets.
In 1892 the original tanning and currying business in Leeds was discontinued. Manufacturing though, continued and in the early 1900’s large contracts were again fulfilled for the British Army and Admiralty.
World War I halted the expansion of the business as 470 employees went on active service but expansion was resumed after the war and by 1934 the company had 250 stores scattered all over the country from Aberdeen to Plymouth and Lowestoft to Holyhead and employed over 2000 staff.
Once again the outbreak of World War II put strains on the business as over 1000 staff were called into service, domestic production was limited by coupons and leather controls and 11 stores were destroyed in enemy action. Meanwhile, the Daventry factory produced Army boots by the million.
By 1969 the company operated 215 stores and employed 2,575 staff and in 1973 the decision was taken to close the Daventry and Leicester factories completely ceasing manufacturing and allowing the business to concentrate entirely on retailing.
A purpose built Head Office and Distribution Centre was opened in Syston, Leicester in 1976 bringing all parts of the central operations of the business under one roof for the first time.
In 1981 the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange and became "Stead & Simpson plc". The Stead and Simpson families still remained in control until 1989.
A chain of 284 stores including 119 freehold properties proved too tempting for development companies and in 1989 a hostile takeover by Clayform Properties plc took place. However, high interest rates, the property crash and recession forced Clayform into administration in 1993 when the then management team saw an opportunity to buy the business backed by Apax Partners & Co Ventures Ltd.
A period of acquisitions followed including 45 Tandem stores in 1992, 22 Shoesave stores in 1993, 49 Freeman Hardy Willis stores in 1996, 22 concessions operating in Co-op stores, 69 Shoe Express stores in 1997 and 24 Peter Briggs stores in 1999. By the end of 1999 the business had 403 stores.
After a period of consolidation and improved performance, Bank of Scotland Corporate bought the business in December 2005 for £48million.
In January 2008 Stead and Simpson went into administration and was acquired by the Shoe Zone Group. The business now has 227 stores.