The year started with a flourish for this Cheshire firm when it hosted the prime minister and chancellor to announce that it was investing £100m in a new warehouse and manufacturing facilities in Warrington — along with a pledge to create 2,000 jobs in three years.
This followed record trading in 2014 and sees the online retailer top the table for a second successive year. Profits have grown on average 217% a year over the last three years, reaching £16m in 2014, before the deduction of some exceptional costs, on £248m of sales.
Matt Moulding, 43, and John Gallemore, 46, started the business in 2004 to provide a technology platform for retailers needing ecommerce services. By 2006, the company had switched to primarily powering its own websites, or acquiring existing sites. It now sells third-party branded or own brand health and beauty products across 26 websites such as Myprotein, Lookfantastic, Exantediet and Mybag. In January, it launched beauty brand Elizabeth Arden’s first ecommerce website in the UK and Ireland.
“The investment in Warrington is a continuation of our commitment to develop as a British export success,” says Moulding, “and through this manufacturing centre of excellence we hope to stimulate further growth.”
The business spent £15m in 2014 developing its technology, and it now trades in 20 languages. Last year it shipped 13m orders to 190 countries, helping to drive international sales in 2014 up 74% to £113.3m, almost half of its total revenue.
Its growth has attracted heavyweight investors. In July last year, American private equity firm KKR took a 20% stake for £100m. Others include Balderton Capital, former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy, M&S’s former head Lord (Stuart) Rose and ex-Matalan chief Angus Munro, who sits on the board.
In 2013, Wm Morrison’s former finance chief Richard Pennycook was appointed chairman, with one eye on a future stock market listing.
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