A multi-million-pound merger of two iconic shoe companies both boasting a century of British manufacturing has been structured by Swindon-based corporate finance specialists Watersheds.
Norwich-based Florida Group, better known for the prestigious women’s shoe brand Van Dal, has acquired Padders, located in Kettering, Northamptonshire.
Padders was founded in 1914, with a vision to produce high-quality shoes that do not compromise comfort for style.
The Florida Group, founded in London at a similar time, relocated to Norwich in 1936, a city then thriving with shoe factories specialising in ladies and children’s shoes.
It went on to produce footwear for the armed forces in World War Two and in 1946 began to specialise in wider fitting ladies’ shoes, leading to the birth of Van Dal.
Today, the Florida Group has exclusive distribution rights with brands such as Bearpaw and Bionatura and partnerships with more than 200 independent shoe retailers, as well as 20 concessions in department stores in the UK and Ireland.
Tony Linford, managing director of Florida Group, said the deal was "pragmatic” and praised Watersheds for delivering the brief.
He said: “Retailers are having a really hard time, which makes supplying them difficult. I knew if we were bigger we could be more competitive. Our industry needs to consolidate.
"Watersheds understood that and delivered what we needed. The acquisition of a complementary business, consolidating both production and manufacturing skills, is the perfect fit.”
Operating from their 42,000 sq ft premises, distribution facility and retail factory outlet, Padders employs about 50 people and supplies nationwide independent retailers and healthcare professionals.
William Senior, of Watersheds, based in Swindon's Bath Road, said: “It was a privilege to work with both companies to build a unified business, better placed to face the challenges of the retailing environment. I am delighted at the outcome.”