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Matches Is for Sale, for the Second Time in Three Months, as Frasers Group Gives Up on the London Retailer

LONDON — Administrators have begun seeking a buyer for the British retailer Matches, which was shut down abruptly this week by new owner Frasers Group.

Benji Dymant and Julian Heathcote of Teneo Financial Advisory Ltd. confirmed Friday that Matches will continue to do business through its website and three London stores, in Mayfair, Marylebone and Wimbledon, as they seek a buyer for the brand.

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Dymant and Heathcote added that 273 employees, a little more than half of the company’s total, will be laid off with immediate effect. The layoffs apply solely to those working at the head office in London.

Shop floor and online staff will remain in place as the company continues to operate. It’s unclear whether Nick Beighton, the company’s chief executive officer who was attempting to turn the business around, will remain.

“Like many luxury fashion retailers, Matches has experienced a sharp decline in demand over the last year as a result of well-publicized pressures on discretionary spend, stemming from the high inflation and high interest macro environment,” the administrators said Friday.

“Since Frasers’ acquisition of Matches in December 2023, and an injection of additional funding, trading has continued to deteriorate, increasing the funding requirements of the business. This ultimately has resulted in the directors taking the difficult decision to place the company into administration,” Teneo’s administrators added.

Administrators have not yet discussed any deals or final payment terms with vendors. According to sources, when Frasers took over the business at least two Kering brands exited, one of which was Saint Laurent.

Teneo declined to comment on who might buy all or part of Matches. This latest fire sale could see Next plc return as an interested party. Late last year Next was competing with Frasers Group to purchase the brand.

Next, which has its own stores and a large online platform selling third-party brands, is one of the few British retailers in a position to buy all or part of Matches. It has a robust clothing, accessories and home business, and specializes in buying distressed assets and relaunching them online or in-store.

Earlier this year Next increased its full-year profit before tax guidance by 20 million pounds to 905 million pounds, up 4 percent versus 2023, and said it was optimistic about the year ahead.

As reported on Thursday, Frasers put Matches into administration two months after buying it at a knockdown price of 52 million pounds from Apax Partners, which had earlier failed to make a success of the brand.

In a statement released to the London Stock Exchange, Frasers said Matches had “consistently missed its business plan targets and…has continued to make material losses. While Matches’ management team has tried to try to find a way to stabilize the business, it has become clear that too much change would be required to restructure it, and the continued funding requirements would be far in excess of amounts that the group considers to be viable.”

Michael Murray, CEO of Frasers Group
Michael Murray, CEO of Frasers Group

Frasers added that in light of the situation, Matches has been put into administration. “Frasers remains committed to the luxury market and its brand partners.”

Following the sale to Frasers Group just before Christmas, Michael Murray, CEO of Frasers, said that “while the global luxury environment is softer, we are confident that, by leveraging our industry-leading ecosystem, we will unlock synergies and drive profitable growth for Matches.”

Murray described Matches as “a leader in online luxury retail which has incredible relationships with its brand partners. This acquisition will strengthen Frasers’ luxury offering, further deepening our relationships and accelerating our mission to provide consumers with access to the world’s best brands.”

Beighton was equally upbeat at the time of the sale.

“Being part of Frasers, with their utter commitment to luxury, will give this business access to greater scale, best-in-class retail expertise, and the financial stability it needs to more effectively deliver for our brand partners and our customers,” Beighton said.

The turnaround job was always going to be a big one. In the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, 2023, Matches’ sales dipped 1.7 percent to 380.1 million pounds, while losses widened to 70.9 million pounds from 39.8 million pounds.

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