Can a mid-size fashion e-tail CEO turn around loss-making Matchesfashion?

Founded in 1987 as a boutique in the London suburb of Wimbledon, Matchesfashion sells luxury goods from over 600 brands through a handful of stores and a website that delivers to 176 countries. It is known for its curated mix of Gucci, Valentino and luxury-priced independent brands, including Erdem. Apax has owned Matchesfashion for five years, having taken over the business from the founders in 2017 in a deal valued at $1 billion.

Betting on an Asos veteran indicates that he may want results faster than others. Beighton, who joined Asos as CFO in 2009 and became CEO in 2015, has been credited with pushing e-commerce deeper into America, a key growth area for luxury; it also set standards for prompt deliveries and returns; and launched Asos on the path to becoming more sustainable. In a statement, Beighton said he has used “technology, product, logistics and culture” to disrupt existing consumer habits and “galvanize change in organizations and I hope to bring these skills to my new role”.

Yet he joins Matchesfashion as the fourth CEO in five years. Beighton replaces luxury retail veteran Paolo De Cesare, who only joined in September 2021 – moving to London from Paris, where he was chairman and chief executive of French department store Printemps for 12 years. At Matchesfashion, De Cesare shifted the strategy towards full price and placed more emphasis on creativity, hosting initiatives at the Frieze Art Fair in Los Angeles and London, and Fashion Trust Arabia in Doha.

Before De Cesare, Amazon executive Ajay Kavan lasted just a year, hiring Net-a-Porter and Bergdorf Goodman veteran Elizabeth von der Goltz as chief business officer to build relationships with major luxury brands as they cut back on wholesale to focus on their own direct channels. Ulric Jerome, who was hired by founders Tom and Ruth Chapman in 2013, served as CEO until August 2019.

Analysts describe Beighton’s appointment as a surprise. “I guess this is just the nth demonstration – look at the Farfetch stock price crash or the Yoox Net-a-Porter woes – that selling luxury online through a multi-brand retail concept is very difficult” , says Luca Solca, senior analyst. and managing director of luxury goods at the consulting firm Bernstein. “I am very surprised to see Paolo leave as he has led Matchesfashion on a strong recovery trajectory.”

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