Boo! Don't be scared of Boohoo.com
Hot on the tails of Poundland, the London Stock Exchange sees online fashion retailer Boohoo.com list on the AIM market today, at 50p per share with a market cap of £560m.
With the ticker BOO, dot-com era investors might be scared of a repeat of Boo.com, also an online clothes retailer that collapsed alongside many other over-valued stocks in 2000. With AO.com, Poundland and Pets at Home recently listed, and Fat Face, B&M and House of Fraser expected soon, the retail IPO space is getting a little '2000-esque'.
Unlike many of the dot-com era companies though, Boohoo.com makes money. Sales grew 70% to £91.9m in the ten months leading up to December 2013 and EBITDA grew 188% to £10.1m.
After paying £240m to the company's existing shareholders, £50m from the listing will be used to expand overseas. With 37% international sales already and no brick and mortar stores to hold it down, this strategy appears sensible.
The attraction of the website for its 16 to 24-year-old clientele is the high fashion at low prices. Consumer budgets are likely to remain squeezed both in the UK and abroad, particularly as inflation is still trending above average income growth. If the success of food retailers Aldi and Lidl are anything to go by, the market for 'discounted' fashion should continue to grow.
If proof is needed that this business model works, one need only look as far as the world's largest apparel retailer, Zara. The similarities are numerous They offer cheap, own-brand items that can be translated from the catwalk to store in six weeks, making the styles more current for the fashion-conscious buyer.
Online, Boohoo.com will be keen to emulate the success of ASOS, their biggest competitor. ASOS has the first-mover advantage and will be difficult to displace with a market cap of £5.6bn.
ASOS also has a larger target audience with a global reach. It also complements its own-brand items with the independent merchandisers who use the ASOS Marketplace, much like Amazon's.
A quick "ask the over-30's" test in the office and nobody had heard of Boohoo.com. The question is whether Boohoo's fashion-conscious 16 to 24-year-old audience will offer enough revenue-growth potential to match the likes of ASOS. Youth fashion tastes are fickle and subject to change. Take a look at the once-popular Abercrombie & Fitch in the US suffering multi-year sales declines.
Boohoo.com has built a growing fan base which it has converted into stellar earnings growth. In a buoyant IPO market where discount retailers are order of the day, BOO may not be that scary at all.
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