As former Asos boss Nick Beighton takes the helm of luxury ecommerce platform Matchesfashion, Retail Week explores where the business is now and what he could bring to the table.
Matchesfashion has had a tumultuous few years, with three new chief executives appointed over the last four years, while the pandemic proved tough as shoppers switched to more casual dressing.
The retailer generates more than 90% of its sales online, while the rest comes from its three London boutiques, and 80% of its customer base is from overseas. But losses at the business have widened in recent years, standing at £23.5m in the year to January 2021.
Beighton, who exited Asos in October last year, will take the reins from Paolo de Cesare, who has been in the role for less than a year, in August.
Will this new appointment bring Matchesfashion the stability it needs to move back into profit, and win over the luxury crowd? Retail Week has carried out a SWOT analysis of what the business needs to succeed.
Third-party relationships: As a luxury fashion platform, the majority of Matchesfashion’s business comes from partnerships with designers. The ecommerce site boasts more than 450 established and new-generation designers, and its clout in the luxury sector has also allowed it to open physical franchise stores for high-end brands such as Max Mara and Diane Von Furstenberg. Beighton believes he can build further momentum for the luxury marketplace in this area due to his expertise working with third-party brands at Asos. “With the exception of luxury, which I’ve not really done before, I’ve done lots on brand relationships with the beauty brands, Adidas, Nike, etcetera – it’s right in my wheelhouse,” Beighton told Retail Week.
Service and experience: Luxury goes to the core of Matchesfashion’s offer, both online and in-store, offering shoppers access to a team of stylists 24/7. Its flagship store on Carlos Place in London hosts personal shopping experiences as well as a programme of events and features an exclusive cafe for guests. Matchesfashion has just three stores in London but Beighton says there may be scope to expand this elsewhere to reach luxury shoppers around the UK and the rest of the world. “I wouldn’t be surprised we didn’t grow the stores as well as the ecommerce,” he said.
Focus on occasionwear: Matchesfashion profits have come under pressure over the last few years as it invested in international expansion – it slumped to a loss of £5.6m in 2019, which has since widened to £23.5m in the year to January 2021.
Beighton attributed much of this to the retailer’s lack of variety in its product. “Matchesfashion will have struggled in the pandemic as a lot of its product would have been going-out wear,” he said. “We all know of the strength of beauty, casualwear and trainers, during the pandemic, whereas Matchesfashion’s expertise is in exquisite dresses – so we might need to build out its categories.”
Beighton particularly highlighted handbags, beauty and gymwear as areas to build up in the near future.
Clarity of purpose: The biggest lesson Beighton said he will take from his time at fast-fashion retailer Asos will be to ensure that Matchesfashion has a clear strategy, mission, purpose and values. “That will be something I’ll be working with and instantly building or refreshing or getting behind, depending on how well they’re established,” he said.
“That drives culture and that drives what we’re here for – we’re here to inspire and engage our customers. These are the values that we operate in and they’re what guides our behaviour.”
While Beighton said he could not be sure what the purpose would be until he gets “under the hood” of the business, he said it would be something along the lines of “the ultimate luxury edit”, creating little moments of luxury in every customer’s fashion journey.
Tech investments: “Customers don’t always talk about the investments you make in warehouses and technology but they notice the impact of it,” Beighton said. One of his first ports of call will be to improve Matchesfashion by investing in its website and app to ensure a smooth and seamless shopping experience for customers. “Retailers need unbelievable, intuitive feel on the app, great logistics to power it – so we’ll need to invest in those in order to grow,” he added.
International expansion: While overseas customers already account for 80% of the retailer’s sales, it is targeting further growth. “It has stepped up its marketing activities to raise its profile, including the opening of pop-up shops in key markets, as well as investing in distribution infrastructure to improve its overseas fulfilment offer,” says Retail Week Prospect analyst Wendy Massey.
“The acquisition of the business by Apax Partners towards the end of 2017 provided funds to drive forward international growth plans with agility and scale”
In-house label: Matchesfashion’s product is largely from external designers, but it does have one own-label brand: Raey. As he did with Asos Design and its other venture brands, Beighton is keen to build on this label and leverage the marketplace’s designer expertise.
Increasing competition: “Competition in the luxury sector looks set to increase further over the coming years, not only from traditional luxury retailers and competing online fashion sites, but also by luxury brands themselves exploiting the online channel,” says Massey. “Matchesfashion is thus competing against its own suppliers.”
As well as this, the luxury marketplace faces stiff competition from the likes of Farfetch, Net-a-Porter and MyTheresa, while Vestiaire Collective offers second-hand luxury, and By Rotation and Rotaro offer rental options – particularly for going-out dresses, competing in Matchesfashion’s key category.
Top-level churn: Beighton is Matchesfashion’s third chief executive in four years and it has also lost several senior directors including global fashion director Natalie Bingham, who will not be replaced, and chief financial officer Sean Glithero, who will be replaced by Farfetch senior vice-president of finance Dave Murray in the autumn. The retailer will need to see some stability at the top under Beighton if his leadership is going to prove the perfect match.
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