M and M Direct may have one of the more prosaic of names among online fashion retailers compared to Asos, Figleaves or Net-a-Porter, but that doesn’t appear to restrict its appeal.
It cleared the £100m turnover hurdle in the year to February, but perhaps the most impressive aspect of its performance under ex-Tesco Direct chief executive Steve Robinson is the double-digit operating margins accompanying its rapid growth.
Moreover, efficiency benchmarks suggest a tightly-run ship: employment costs at 8% of sales compares favourably with 11% for Asos. Admittedly, sales per employee are below those of Asos.
For a major online fashion retailer, M and M Direct maintains a low profile in terms of media promotion, preferring a word of mouth and a below-the-line approach: for example, extensive and innovative direct marketing involving email and text messages to customers.
There would also appear to be scope for extending the product range and customer base, as well as international potential. Moreover, M and M Direct operates a clearance website for Ted Baker under the Ted’s Shed banner, thereby providing the retailer with a low key means of stock clearance while still reflecting its brand values. Additional third party agreements are a possibility.
One possible problem could be ensuring increasing supplies of strong, branded product as expansion continues, especially if brand owners scale back under economic pressures or move to take direct control of clearing surplus stock.
There has been recent speculation about a stock market float for the business. Certainly the current controlling party, US private equity house TA Associates, will expect to realise its investment in due course, having acquired control in 2007.