Perhaps the most surprising recent brand news, D2C furniture brand Made.com announced on October 26th that it had officially stopped trading. Shortly after, its site functionality was switched off and replaced with the following message:
“Sorry, MADE is not currently taking any new orders. We appreciate your patience and we hope to be able to restart accepting orders again soon.”
While this message didn’t outright state that the brand has shut down, according to The Drum, the “business is short of the £70m it needs to survive the next 18 months and, as a result, the share price plummeted by 93% to 1/2p after the announcement came that it had shut up shop.”
Clearly, Made.com was in the red and, like many other challenger brands, suffered "from a combination of supply chain issues, spiraling business costs, a living cost crisis tightening consumer purses and a pandemic boom that created an inflated success.”
Millennials all over the world are in mourning — with many taking to Twitter to express their devastation at losing this made-to-order darling.
the MADE .com closing down sale is going to be the millennial Dunkirk… people are going to lose their lives, impaled on a velvet sofa. we’ll be telling our grandchildren about it!— Louis Staples (@LouisStaples) October 26, 2022
At the beginning of October, the brand announced that it was in talks with a number of interested potential investors and shared an end-of-the-month deadline. But, according to Time Out, “none of its potential buyers were able to meet that date. As a result, Made.com has ended the rescue talks, putting the company at severe risk of closure.”
And in early November, it was announced that the rescue talks didn't pan out and, sadly, Made.com entered administration — putting 573 people out of jobs and "leaving thousands of customer orders hanging in the balance."
According to Sky News, British fashion brand Next has snapped up "parts of the broken online furniture business" — but that doesn't mean they'll be fulfilling outstanding orders. The article recommends that "those worried about their orders are being urged to contact administrators while financial experts urged anyone losing out to make refund claims through their card or credit providers."
While consumers are “divided over how good the retailer actually is” — with some swearing by the brand’s trendy goods and others lamenting the brand’s quality — another cohort is waiting with bated breath for one thing and one thing only: a sale.
We’re yet to see whether or not Made.com will go through with a getting rid of stock sale, but if it does, it’s sure to be a virtual bloodbath.
As a category disrupter, Made.com spent the last decade working hard to take on industry leaders. With “hyper-stylish campaigns based on its iconic pastel color palette and quirky furniture”, Made.com depended on its in-house creative team to manage all its advertising needs.
And many marketers, such as Wunderman Thompson’s Social Strategy Director Laura Shephard, appreciated Made.com’s approach. Shepherd shared her view with The Drum, stating:
“As someone who has long viewed the brand as a golden goose of the furniture category with a class-leading online presence, I was surprised to see its fall from grace. (The brand put a) huge amount of work in to build mental availability through an appetite to constantly test, learn and scale through digital.”
Source: Made.com Press Kit
As a D2C brand, this made sense — Made.com needed to test, review, and test again in order to figure out the perfect way to connect with its target audiences. And though the brand worked tirelessly to find its sweet spot, it might not have been enough. Just consider the previously successful D2C brand Eve Sleep, which filed for administration in June and is still looking for a buyer these many months later.
As Nicola Strange, a senior problem solver and impact lead at B+A agency, pointed out, in the post-pandemic atmosphere, challenger brands like Made.com have found it increasingly difficult to compete with established industry leaders.
She explains that while “stalwarts can use their vast infrastructures to pivot and respond to rivals, as John Lewis has with its Anyday collection of homewares and fashion” — category disrupter brands like Made.com face must instead find ways to add “value, such as social impact commitments, robust sustainability or an overriding brand purpose to keep customers loyal” and survive.
More specifically, Strange believes that Made.com “suffered from a disconnect between the external brand and the internal company.” She told The Drum:
“There is a sweet spot for challengers where the brand can do the legwork while the business organizes itself, but in tough economic times growth driven by the brand can quickly turn into your downfall when the human beings doing the work behind the scenes can’t keep up.”
In a recent statement, Made.com Chief Executive Nicola Thompson apologized for the business's descent into administration and shared some insight into what made it necessary:
"Over the past months we have fought tooth and nail to rapidly re-size the cost base, re-engineer the sourcing and stock model, and try every possible avenue to raise fresh financing and avoid this outcome.
"Made is a much-loved brand that was highly successful and well adapted, over many years, to a world of low inflation, stable consumer demand, reliable and cost efficient global supply chains and limited geo-political volatility.
"That world vanished, the business could not survive in its current iteration, and we could not pivot fast enough."
The fate of Made.com is a sad one — and we wouldn’t be surprised if other D2C challenger brands also struggle to make it in the coming months.