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Online fashion thrives for new retailer where women call the shots

London

BRITISH fashion retailer Sosandar is racking up big returns for shareholders as the women who run the brand connect with target customers.

The Wilmslow, England-based company has grown rapidly since it went public a year ago. Defying the gloom among the UK's brick-and-mortar retailers, its revenue grew more than 400 per cent in the six months through September.

Founders Julie Lavington and Ali Hall seized an opportunity to woo women their own age, who are dissatisfied with established apparel chains but don't find the right clothes at millennial-focused online retailers. The company's biggest buyers are females between the ages of 35 and 55.

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"We are two women who are in the demographic," Ms Lavington, the co-chief executive officer said by telephone. "It comes from a place of knowing and understanding our customers."

The company is still small, with a market value of about £40 million (S$70.8 million), but its stock has almost doubled this year. That makes it the second-best performer among UK retail and consumer stocks, behind grocer Ocado Group, going by data compiled by Bloomberg.

Sosandar offers classics such as a cheetah-print faux fur coat for £139 and a midnight-blue velvet dress for £79. The company aims to lure customers away from ailing British names like Debenhams and the Marks & Spencer Group, as it shifts to sell more online.

The upstart is spending heavily to fuel the expansion. It posted a loss of almost £2 million in the six-month period, the company reported this week. As sales grow, it expects to turn profitable and ultimately expand outside the UK to Europe and the US, Ms Lavington said.

For now, Sosandar's revenue growth rather than profit will drive investor appetite, said John Stevenson, retail analyst at Peel Hunt. The sales, growing customer base and improving conversion rate are all encouraging signs, he said.

The two founders have worked in the British fashion industry for decades, most recently running the magazine Look. Sosandar began trading last November after a reverse takeover by defunct mining company Orogen. BLOOMBERG