Next snaps up Made.com’s brand, site and IP for a reported £3.4m

Next has acquired the brand, domain and IP of collapsed furniture brand Made.com for a reported £3.4m – just 18 months after it was floated at a market cap of £775m.

The deal comes after a frantic search for investors and then a buyer for the business, which formerly declared it was going down less than two weeks ago.

Made.com’s founder Ning Li revealed that his offer to bail the company out with his own money and team of backers was rebuffed by the company’s board and administrators PwC. Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group was also among those interested in buying the brand, along with DFS and Dreams, but ultimately they walked away.

Next will now likely add Made to its growing homewares business, although the retailer declined to comment at this stage.

Made.com called in administrators on 1 November, just days after the company said that a sale process that started in September as part of a strategic review of its future options in the light of fast-rising costs and falling customer confidence had come to an end since it no longer had any potential offers. It returned to the strategic review and concluded that administration is now its best option.

Commenting on the move, Julian Skelly, Head of Retail (EMEA), Publicis Sapient, says: “When Argos bought Habitat, it was buying into a well-respected retail brand that it was able to digitise effectively. We are now seeing the reverse as Next, an established retailer, bolsters its credentials with an online-focused homeware brand, arguably seeking to reach a younger audience that prefers to shop furniture online. Next interestingly is not taking on responsibility for the remaining inventory for Made.com (where a lot of the brand’s cash was tied up), so it can now start fresh with a solid brand that has based its growth on post-pandemic ecommerce acceleration in a stable market but has suffered hugely from supply chain disruption.”

Skelly continues: “However, the interesting question around Next buying the brand, domain names and IP without the accompanying stock is whether there is a real intention there to double down on Made.com products, or whether Next plans to use the business simply for its brand equity. Made.com’s target audience pool may be shrinking – with many young people priced out of mortgages, and therefore new homes to furnish.”

He concludes: “If it does want to maintain Made.come as an established sub-brand, Next will need to double down on the back-end to ensure supply chain issues are a thing of the past, and that it can match up to the high digital expectations of the Made.com customer.”

Economic context

Made was founded in 2010 as a platform that promised to give customers the ability to order directly from furniture designers, cutting costs by removing the retailer from the equation, writes Chloe Rigby. By 2019 it was succeeding in its mission of building a brand for a millennial generation that was happy to order relatively expensive products online, and it was expanding across Europe, with operations in seven countries. That number has since increased to nine European markets, with seven showrooms that include flagships in London and Paris – boosted by customers moving online in a way that appeared to have accelerated a process that online retailers saw as inevitable.

When Made floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2021, its then-chief executive Philippe Chainieux said the business was “excited to embark on our next chapter as we act on the huge opportunity for growth and deliver on our vision to become the leading home-lifestyle destination in Europe for the digital native.”

But Made has been hit by a series of events that started with high demand during Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, at the same time as supply chain delays. It expanded its warehousing in order to reduce delays – but the rising cost of freight post-pandemic, coupled with rising energy prices in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine meant rising costs at the same time as consumer confidence has been hit hard – with the homewares market particularly badly affected. 

At the same time, shoppers have more generally returned in-store to buy, although still making more of their purchases online than before the pandemic. In its latest half-year, to June 30 2022, Made revenues grew by 4.2% to £178.2m, compared to a year earlier, and pre-tax losses widened to £35.3m as demand reduced and the retailer had to discount to clear stock. 

The news comes days after ONS figures showed a 40% rise to 5,595 business insolvencies in the third quarter of this year, to the end of September, with small businesses particularly badly affected. PwC analysis shows retail was the second highest category, with 2,910 insolvencies, after construction (3,949). 

Made is ranked Top250 in RXUK Top500 research.

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