Who’d be a buyer of online retailer Figleaves?

For a company that has a ‘For Sale’ sign atop its virtual store, the chief executive of Figleaves wasn’t really selling the business particularly well to the audience at the Retail Week Conference.

Julia Reynolds was keen to stress that anybody can sell other people’s brands, which is largely what Figleaves does, and this made the threat from competitors very real. She also pointed out that the company’s customers have been saying they prefer to purchase across channels, which is not what Figleaves does as it is a pure play business – flogging goods only online.

These appear to be serious downers for a business that last month appointed GP Bullhound to advise it following the receipt of several offers for the business as reported in the Sunday Times. These apparently put a valuation of £40 million on the company but little has since been said about who these potential suitors might be.

Figleaves lingerie for sale, but to who?

One thing is for sure, if they do exist then they will have to be a store-based retailer who can bolt on the Figleaves business thereby providing the cross-channel proposition that Reynolds espouses. With Reynolds admitting that anybody can sell other brands online then it is questionable who Figleaves would provide value to – certainly £40 million of value would surely need the company to have some serious differentiation to the rest of the competition.

Reynolds has sought to bring this to the business through the development of own-brand goods, although this remains an immature part of the business. This is an area she knows well having built up the clothing brands of Tesco, with the ‘Florence and Fred’ brand her own creation. She has also undoubtedly improved the fortunes of Figleaves as it had made a loss of £4.2 milliion in the year before she joined the business whereas it is now, according to Reynolds, at breakeven.

It will be interesting to find out how the sales process is progressing and I am hoping to have a little chat with GP Bullhound at some point in the near future. If they ultimately tell me nothing then they should at least brush up Reynolds’ selling skills.