Shock collapse of $50m-a-year empire

 

IT IS touted as a one-stop-shop for "the world's most coveted activewear" - but even that wasn't enough to save Stylerunner from falling victim to Australia's dire retail climate.

Stylerunner, an online retailer that sells a massive range of items like sneakers, leggings, vitamins and supplements, was founded in 2012 by Aussie twins Julie and Sali Stevanja, although Sali left the business in 2015.

As recently as last year the company claimed to be turning over $50 million annually - but on Wednesday this week, the business was abruptly put into receivership.

According to the Financial Review, Sydney company Restructuring Solutions has been appointed receiver of Stylerunner, while As Advisory has been appointed as administrator.

However, it appears to be business as usual for now on the Stylerunner website and on its social media channels, with no public statements or clues that the business may be in trouble.

There is no sign of any trouble on the Stylerunner website.
There is no sign of any trouble on the Stylerunner website.

The Financial Review reports that while Ms Stevanja, 38, used to be the sole owner of Stylerunner, external investors "led by the Gazal rag trade dynasty" have since taken a 59 per cent slice "which valued Stylerunner at only $8 million" - a figure which demonstrated the "intense competition in the 'athleisure' market".

RICH LISTER

Just two years ago, Ms Stevanja was enjoying a staggering personal fortune, taking out the 87th place in the coveted AFR Young Rich list with a net worth of $30 million.

But there was no trace of her on this year's list, which was released on Friday.

Ms Stevanja was inspired to launch Stylerunner after noticing a gap in the market while she was browsing online for trendy yoga wear.

Stylerunner co-founder Julie Stevanja made it on the 2017 Young Rich list … Picture: Instagram/@stylerunner
Stylerunner co-founder Julie Stevanja made it on the 2017 Young Rich list … Picture: Instagram/@stylerunner

She was so confident in her business idea she quit her corporate banking job and invested all her own savings to start it with her twin sister, with zero retail experience under her belt.

The gamble initially paid off, with Stylerunner emerging as the world's first activewear online destination.

Last year, she told news.com.au that within the first three years of the business, Stylerunner grew by 1736 per cent.

"We started off doing 20 hour days, we would have turns taking naps on the lounge to get through - we were doing everything from brand identity, pitching to suppliers, buying, photoshoots and customer service until we felt comfortable enough we had a business opportunity," she said at the time.

"It still feels really surreal, I probably don't stop and appreciate it enough … to think that just a few years ago, it was just an idea."

… but there was no trace of her this year. Picture: Toby Zerna
… but there was no trace of her this year. Picture: Toby Zerna

Andrew McCabe, of Wexted Advisors, confirmed to news.com.au that he and Chris MacDonnell of Restructuring Solutions had been appointed as receivers and managers of Stylerunner Pty Limited on October 23.

"The receivers are continuing to trade on the business while urgent expressions of interest are sought to sell the business," Mr McCabe confirmed in a statement.

"Any interested parties should email their expressions of interest to stylerunner@wexted.com for further information.

"Any customer or supplier questions should be addressed to the company staff in the ordinary course of business."

Stylerunner has also been contacted for comment.

AUSSIE RETAIL IN TROUBLE

A string of big-name closures have rocked Australia this year, starting in January when menswear retailer Ed Harry went into voluntary administration.

A week later, Aussie sportswear favourite Skins also revealed it was on the brink of failure after applying for bankruptcy in a Swiss court.

At the end of the month, the Napoleon Perdis beauty empire also announced the cult make-up chain's 56 Aussie stores had closed for stocktake. Administrators were appointed, and scores of stores have since collapsed.

Footwear trailblazer Shoes of Prey also met its demise this year, along with British fashion giant Karen Millen, which in September revealed it would soon shut all Aussie stores, leaving around 80 jobs in peril.

Stylerunner is a one-stop-shop for activewear. Picture: Instagram/@stylerunner
Stylerunner is a one-stop-shop for activewear. Picture: Instagram/@stylerunner

Earlier this month, celebrity chef Shannon Bennett's Melbourne burger chain Benny Burger was also placed into administration, followed by seven Red Rooster outlets in Queensland just days later.

The closures come after several experts including Deloitte Access Economics partner David Rumbens predicted retailers would struggle to keep the lights on in 2019.

In March, a Deloitte Access Economics report said consumers had been propping up the industry thanks to the tail end of the property market's boom and the rise of buy now, pay later platforms such as Afterpay.

But it claimed weakening house prices and doubts lingering over the local share market were tipped to weigh on consumers with retail turnover growth predicted to fall to 1.6 per cent in 2019, compared to 2.2 per cent last year.

"Australia's retail sector has been sustaining a reasonable rate of sales growth in an unconventional way - not so much from income growth, but leveraging off consumers' willingness to spend," Mr Rumbens said.

Stylerunner was founded after Ms Stevanja spotted a gap in the market. Picture: Instagram/@stylerunner
Stylerunner was founded after Ms Stevanja spotted a gap in the market. Picture: Instagram/@stylerunner

"It's fair to say that many retailers have only survived the last few years because we've lived beyond our means.

"But that ship has now sailed."

And in 2018, even more household names shut up shop, including plus-size womenswear brand Maggie T, Gap, Avon, Esprit, Toys 'R' Us, Max Brenner, Roger David and Laura Ashley.


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