Nick Beighton, chief executive officer of British luxury retailer Matchesfashion since July, is confident that he can bring the company “back to where it belongs” in the next three years.
Speaking to WWD after the retailer’s fiscal-year 2021 results were published Wednesday on Companies House, the former Asos CEO, who transformed the e-commerce platform into a 4 billion pound operation, said recovery at Matchesfashion is already well underway.
In the latest quarter between August to October, the company logged “healthy double-digit growth, which is very pleasing given the macro headwinds,” Beighton said, adding that “I’m delighted with that. But there’s an awful lot for us to do.”
He pointed out that the fastest-growing categories during the quarter were women’s occasional wear, as well as men’s tailoring.
“We’re seeing strong growth in the U.K. and U.S., which is extremely pleasing because they are two key markets for us,” Beighton added.
He said more key hires will be revealed soon as he rebuilds the team. In September, he appointed Carl Tallents, the former group head of luxury brands at Britain’s Frasers, the retailer’s chief commercial officer, replacing Elizabeth von der Goltz, who was hired by Ajay Kavan, the former Amazon executive who was then CEO of Matchesfashion.
“We’re doing that to bring Matchesfashion back to the place it belongs. It means much stronger sales growth over the next three years, a return to the pre-COVID-19 sales level, and a closing of the EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] losses,” said Beighton. He declined to set a date on when the business will reach the pre-pandemic level.
In his new role, Beighton said he is blessed with Matchesfashion’s strong relationships with luxury brands.
“It’s a super brand in the eyes of the consumer. And I can see that in the data already. We have very loyal customers and there has been a very strong uplift from that existing customer,” he said.
His experience at Asos, which taught him “how to grow organizations through culture, technology products, and thinking differently,” is consistent with what he needs to do at Matchesfashion, Beighton believes.
“The differences are on luxury, and I’m spending a lot of time with different CEOs, listening, learning about what they like about Matchesfashion, what we can do better, and how we can grow our brand relationships,” he added.
Since Beighton took over, Matchesfashion has thrown a variety of events, especially during Frieze London, to showcase its prowess as a respectable fashion destination.
Art critic Antwaun Sargent hosted his birthday dinner with friends like Tyler Mitchell, Jeremy O’Harris, and Rafael Pavarotti at its town house at 5 Carlos Place, while Raf Simons celebrated his homeware collaboration with Kvadrat there as well.
Steven Klein, who is known for capturing supermodels and mega stars through his subversive and sexually charged lens for the past 30 years, celebrated the launch of his first namesake book with Naomi Campbell and Matchesfashion during the past Paris Fashion Week.
Beighton was particularly impressed with the breakfast cooked by Michèle Lamy during Frieze London at the top-floor café.
“I am very impressed that we have that sort of collaboration, and that we have some great talents who are happy to work with Matchesfashion, because they value our point of view, understand the customer base, and want to be associated with it,” he said.
With regard to the upcoming holiday season, Beighton said one can expect “an awful lot happening at Matchesfashion,” as it builds up toward Christmas. His grand strategy reveal for the retailer might drop before the holiday season as well, Beighton hinted.
“We have some great content and some great brand collaborations. I’m very excited about the work the team has done,” he said.
Looking into 2023, he said the company will “continue to service our top-tier customers while also broadening our offering and business model to ensure we have the ultimate edit for every fashion category.”
In the fiscal year that ended Jan. 31, Matchesfashion’s revenue in the period was 386.6 million pounds, down 1.1 percent compared to the same period a year ago.
Its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization in the period saw losses widen to 23.8 million pounds from losses of 17.2 million pounds a year ago. The total loss for the financial year 2021 was 38.6 million pounds.
Matchesfashion revealed that its business was negatively impacted by Brexit and lockdowns in the first half of 2021, which led to a 9.4 percent dip in revenue in the period. In the second half, revenue grew by 8.3 percent year-over-year.
The retailer said the bounceback in the second half was the result of “a return to a larger, more focused fall buy that traded well with year-end sell-through up 2 percent to 83 points,” which also improved Matchesfashion’s margin in the period.
The company, which sells “a modern edit” of women’s and men’s products from more than 600 designer brands to customers in more than 170 countries, said the COVID-19 pandemic, which “disproportionately impacted” the retailer’s occasionwear offering, was the key reason behind the decrease in sales.
Another key barrier was the additional administrative and duty burden caused by Brexit, the company said. To solve the issue, the retailer set up an intake center in the Netherlands midway through fiscal-year 2021. Overall, the cost of Brexit was 10.5 million pounds in the period.
The retailer has also experimented with the concession model with five brands from a luxury group, the filings revealed. Matchesfashion said this model “requires a greater level of technical integration and data exchange between the brands and Matchesfashion,” but it helps “reduce promotions and sell more stock at full price, whilst maintaining strong levels of sell-through.”
Some 57.6 million pounds were injected by indirect parent companies via the issuance of new loan notes to fund operating cash outflows, service borrowings, and repay amounts drawn under the group’s asset-backed lending facility. An additional 40 million pounds of funds were raised last April.