Property billionaire Andrew Roberts’ online retail investments hit hard times

Multiplex heir Andrew Roberts’ move into online retailing has run into early difficulties with reports of cuts to staff members, closure of a bricks and mortar store, and falling online sales.

Roberts’ eFINITY group bought three eCommerce sites in June; MyCatwalk, Thread People and Baby’s Got Style.

Roberts, whose family was valued at $1.75 billion on BRW’s Rich 200 list, had ambitions of becoming a dominant eCommerce player.

However, Fairfax reports MyCatwalk’s online sales fell 40% in the last year and says the group has been hit hard by competition from new online rivals like The Iconic and ASOS.

It also claims all but six eFINITY staff have been made redundant and all MyCatwalk bricks and mortar stores, with the exception of the Double Bay store, will close.

Joe Sponholz, eFINITY’s executive chairman, confirmed to Fairfax that staff numbers at the three websites had been reduced and that one of MyCatwalk’s stores would close, but would not comment on the reports any further.

It’s a far cry from back in June, when Sponholz told SmartCompany the growth potential for online retail in Australia was “phenomenal”.

“Andrew purchased [the online retailers] because he thinks they have a long-term business value in each of the respective verticals that they represent,” Sponholz said.

“He also believes there are synergies between these companies – especially in the back end in the infrastructure of the companies – that should be advantageous to increase their profitability.”

Sponholz said he expected growth in MyCatwalk, Thread People and Baby’s Got Style to double in the next two years and “in perpetuity would be nice”.

This morning a spokesperson for eFinity declined to confirm or deny reports of the problems at the online retailer and Sponholz was not available for comment.



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