LONDON-Following Farfetch.com’s purchase of the London boutique Browns last week, the industry’s eyes are now roving over small, independent European fashion retailers, and wondering what their next moves might be.
On Sunday, Tom Chapman denied a report in The Sunday Times of London that his company, Matchesfashion.com, had hired Morgan Stanley to look at “strategic options” for the business that could result in a sale.
Matchesfashion.com is a London-based cluster of five fashion boutiques with a vibrant online business. The Sunday Times, quoting unnamed financial sources, said it could be valued at up to 200 million pounds, or $314 million at current exchange.
Husband-and-wife team Tom and Ruth Chapman founded the business in 1987 and serve as its co-chief executive officers.
In response to the story, Chapman told WWD: “Naturally, we are regularly assessing our strategic options for the business, but there is no ongoing process at present and [The Sunday Times] article is unfounded and purely speculative. We have obviously been observing the latest industry developments, and will always evaluate the options and what’s best for the business long term, especially in the light of our continuing excellent performance and growth.”
If the Chapmans, who own the majority of the company with Scottish Equity Partners as a minority shareholder, were to sell, they’d be the third major, independent European fashion retailer to do so in the past year. Last September, the Neiman Marcus Group bought the Munich-based Mytheresa.com and the Theresa flagship store from its founder-owners, Christoph and Susanne Botschen. Last week, Farfetch snapped up a 100 percent stake in Browns, with an eye to building that business online and offline, and experimenting with new omnichannel projects.
The Chapmans founded Matches as a brick-and-mortar shop in Wimbledon in 1987, and went on to open four more stores in upscale neighborhoods across London. In 2007, Matches launched what is now a thriving online site, generating 80 percent of overall sales. As of 2013 the entire business has been known known as Matchesfashion.com.
Last month, Ulric Jerome, the company’s chief operating officer, told audiences at the WWD Digital Summit in London that the Matchesfashion business is an increasingly international one, with just 30 percent of sales coming from the U.K.
The U.S. is Matchesfashion’s second-largest market, and grew by 87 percent last year, while Asia more than doubled in the past year. The average order value on the site is 450 pounds, or $693 at current exchange.