Designer brands including Gucci and Anya Hindmarch have been left millions of pounds out of pocket and some customers will not get refunds after online fashion site Matchesfashion collapsed owing more than £210m last month.

Customers who bought designer items prior to the administration are not able to return items or get a refund, according to a report by administrators published on Wednesday.

Matches, founded in 1987 as a boutique in the London suburb of Wimbledon by husband and wife Tom and Ruth Chapman, collapsed on Mar. 8 after it was hit by widespread discounting and softening demand for luxury fashion.

Matches was acquired by Mike Ashley’s Frasers in late 2023 for £52 million ($647 million) in cash from the private equity firm Apax Partners. Frasers put in £33 million to keep it trading. However, after a difficult Christmas, Frasers said it was unwilling to provide further funds and called in administrators from Teneo.

The administrators said the retailer’s 541 known unsecured creditors – including customers, landlords and designer clothing suppliers – are owed at least £35.6 ($44.2 million), and potentially as much as £100 million ($124 million), but are unlikely to collectively receive more than £800,000 ($996,000), or “less than a penny in the pound.”

One Matches customer told the Guardian that she had returned products worth more than £500 in January but, after the administration, was told she would not be refunded.

“I have been a very loyal customer to Matchesfashion since it started online, and bought regularly,” she said. “I feel abused! This is not acceptable.”

Some suppliers – such as landlords, logistics companies security and IT providers – have been paid to ensure the retailer can continue to trade while administrators attempt to sell off the business.

Administrators said they also expected to pay almost £300,000 owed to employees and £1.2 million to tax authorities.

Swedish label Toteme is the brand owed the most by Matches, according to the administrators report, with a debt of almost £1 million. Burberry, Gucci and Max Mara are each owed about £500,000.

Well-known British labels are also on the hook. Paul Smith and Samantha Cameron’s Cefinn are both owed more than £100,000 while Anya Hindmarch and Joseph are owed more than £200,000 each.

Administrators said 190 suppliers had claimed ownership of almost £23 million of stock and were seeking to retrieve it, but only £3.4 million had been returned so far.

Matches also owed £173 million to Frasers and administrators said that this was unlikely to be repaid in full.

Administrators cut 273 jobs last month, more than half of Matches’ workforce, while the chief executive, former Asos boss Nick Beighton, lost his job.

Teneo said administrators had received 11 offers for Matches late last month and they were continuing to review bids.

It is not clear if Frasers will seek to buy back the company amid a tough luxury market. Wealthy customers have been forced to rein in spending due to higher interest rates on mortgages and loans, and a 32 percent rise in average prices of luxury fashion since 2019, according to Teneo.

Online specialists have been hit particularly hard. Retailer Farfetch agreed a controversial rescue deal with the South Korean e-commerce giant Coupang through a pre-pack administration in January. Richemont’s Yoox Net-a-Porter, which had been lined up to buy Farfetch, is heavily loss-making.

On Wednesday, the owner of upmarket department store Harvey Nichols revealed that shareholders had pumped in more than £25 million of new funds and made a further £7 million available in the past year after it continued to post a loss.

The retail group reported a £21.3 million loss for the year to 1 April 2023, after a loss of £30.4 million a year before, despite a 13 percent rise in sales to £217 million. Debts rose to £82 million from £63.4 million but bank debt was paid off in favour of loans via shareholder Dickson Poon, the Hong Kong-based entrepreneur.

By Sarah Butler

Learn more:

Why Frasers Group Shuttered Matchesfashion

In the latest blow to the luxury e-commerce sector, the embattled Matches is closing down just over two months after being acquired by Frasers Group as relationships with brands have reportedly soured.

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