Monsoon Accessorize has returned to profit, as its turnaround strategy following administration in 2020 bore fruit.

The fashion and jewellery retailer is seeking to grow its store estate in the UK and internationally, as well introducing third-party brands, after it reported sales of £196m in the year to December 31, 2021, when EBITDA came in at £17.4m.

Monsoon SS22 photoshoot 3

Monsoon has gone back to its roots with its new ranges

By the end of December, the business was also debt-free with net cash of £15m.

Monsoon Accessorize was bought out of administration in June 2020 by founder Peter Simon, in a pre-pack deal that saved the retailer’s 2,300 UK employees and retained a high street store presence.

Between April 2020 and August 2021, Monsoon Accessorize reported sales of £200m, EBITDA of £24.7m and profit before tax of £19.9m.

Chief executive Nick Stowe told Retail Week it was “gratifying to report some good numbers but it’s better to have a business and brand that we’re proud of and excited about”, and that he is very excited for the next stage of growth.

The retailer now has 150 UK stores, after opening 11 in 2021, and 20 more are planned for both the Monsoon and Accessorize fascias in 2022.

Stowe said: “We spent that first year doing all our restructuring work. We wouldn’t have chosen to do this while stores were closed but it was helpful to do it out of the glare of a lot of scrutiny and publicity – it would have made it harder to do what we did. 

“We renewed every contract in the business, every lease, and that was a difficult period but one that helped us very effectively. We then spent the subsequent period doing the fun stuff. We relaunched the website, we revamped the stores, we looked at improving the product. It’s gratifying to have all those things come to life and have people appreciate them.”

Monsoon design director Caroline Jackson said the focus has been premiumising the product including a year-long “back to origin” campaign in which Jaipur-based craftspeople will be placed at the heart – harking back to the roots of the business in Jaipur, India, almost 50 years ago.

Jackson told Retail Week: “We’ve definitely been on a new trajectory over the last few years. Even though it’s been a stressful period, it gave us a more entrepreneurial spirit to have some fun and go back to the DNA of what Monsoon means to everybody. 

“Twenty years ago, Monsoon was so significant in people’s hearts because of the bohemian, sustainable and ethical values it stood for, and we want that to be part of our being. Creating beautiful product has to be first and foremost.

“We started this new concept called ‘back to origin’ where we shot in Jaipur, which is where Monsoon started its journey nearly 50 years ago. We created a lot of the product there in January using woodblock techniques and embroidery, hero-ing occasionwear. The product speaks volumes about where we want to be and the feedback has been incredible.”

The retailer is aiming to double the amount of artisanal product to 20% in the next year and will host third-party brands through its Brands Bazaar, which will launch in July.

Monsoon Marylebone High Street interior

Monsoon has revamped stores including on Marylebone High Street, London

Brands include fellow Indian-heritage label East, as well as small businesses such as loungewear brand Luna & Noon and wellness label La Eva.

While the bazaar will initially be online-only, Stowe said Monsoon was open to the possibility of physical pop-ups in the future. 

The origins campaign has included a revamp of Monsoon’s store estate, which includes new terracotta and orange features, as well as in-store “arches” to encourage discovery.

Stowe reiterated that the retailer is committed to its stores, despite the fact that its online business has grown to 50% of its total, up from 17% pre-pandemic.

He is also placing his bets on the return of travel with European travel stores set to open this year in Zurich, Milan and several in Germany and Austria.

He added: “It’s a bet that people are going to travel again. It’s a great position and as others are pulling out, there’s opportunity to gain new spaces.

“It’s about having confidence in our travel business. Our administration was a leap of faith to buy the business back and rebuild it, those travel stores are a leap of faith too.

“It seems to be working for us. Our UK locations are doing well – the airports are back and it’s clear from the numbers that the business is working again, so having the same in Europe is something we’re excited about.”

Now that the retailer has restored faith in the Monsoon brand, it will turn its attention to the Accessorize fascia, including modernised store formats and a renewed product focus. 

Founder Peter Simon said he is proud of the transformation Monsoon Accessorize has achieved.

He said: “As we hoped, Monsoon and Accessorize have emerged from this crisis smaller and stronger but essentially the same – with our unique design flair and commitment to environmental standards and ethical trading intact.

“Our business turns 50 next year, a testament to the strength of our products and brands but also to how we have been able to evolve and change. I am now looking forward to delivering on our growth plans and writing the next chapter for Monsoon and Accessorize.”

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