Investors put Colorado on the block

Australia's largest footwear retailer, Colorado, is up for sale less than two years after it came out of receivership.

Australia's largest footwear retailer, Colorado, is up for sale less than two years after it came out of receivership.

The retailer, which also specialises casual wear, is majority-owned by two private equity firms, Anchorage Capital Partners and Ice Canyon. The two investors wound up with the business having converted their debt to ownership in shares. Lenders, the National Australia Bank, Rabobank and Nomura are also shareholders.

There were attempts to sell the business and others in the stable, renamed Fusion Retail Brands, including JAG and Mathers, 18 months ago but offers that ran to about $110 million, did not meet expectations according to industry insiders. There were suggestions that offers at the time reached only $70 million.

Since then a new management team has been working on restructuring the businesses, growing the omni-channel outlet and taking costs out of the businesses.

When Colorado collapsed more than 1000 jobs were lost and lenders were owed $430 million.

The current shareholders are not natural owners and as such are looking at every opportunity to offload the group as a single business or individual brands.

They have enlisted PricewaterhouseCoopers to run the sale process, which was triggered by some renewed interest from trade buyers.

Fusion chief executive Don Grover told BusinessDay the latest attempt is not a distressed sale and progress has been made in restructuring the business, although he said the turnaround is not complete.

Even so, retail insiders provide plenty of anecdotally based views that Colorado in particular is doing it tough in the current environment.

The latest set of accounts - for the 2012 financial year - show the group's sales revenue of $244.4 million and a net loss of $13.2 million.

Buyers that are taking an interest this time around will probably be looking to pick up brands on the cheap rather than pay top dollar.

The small brand of potential interest is JAG, which has been recently attracting exposure thanks to its use of singer and TV presenter Ruby Rose as an ambassador.

The use of Rose and an infectious social media campaign has been successful in raising the brand's awareness and credibility in the youth market. JAG was the sought after denim brand of the 1970s and a couple of generations on it is now staging something of a revival.

Colorado, which also specialises in adventure-wear clothing, is the flagship brand within Fusion and remains a bigger task.

Under the command of receivers over the past few years, a major stores closure has taken place, and costs have been gouged from the business.

Like other retailers in the pre-global financial crisis, Colorado engaged in a debt-fuelled expansion opening hundreds of retail outlets. In 2006, Singapore-based Affinity launched a takeover of the firm, valuing the retailer at $450 million

Colorado is no longer lumbered with this debt burden but has to make a return in a particularly difficult footwear market, which is not yet showing any signs of improvement.

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