PwC to oversee administration

03 November 2022 3 min. read

The operators of Design have filed a notice to appoint Big Four firm PwC as its administrator. The consultancy will now work to find a buyer for the assets of the e-commerce firm. is a British e-commerce company based in London, which designs and sells furniture and home accessories online. Launched in 2010 by entrepreneurs Ning Li and Brent Hoberman, together with Julien Callède and Chloe Macintosh, the company has offices and warehouses across Europe and Asia, and operates in seven European markets including the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Spain.

While the firm enjoyed a meteoric rise to prominence over the last decade, changes in leadership and misjudged investments have seen its short-lived retail empire left in ashes. The company, which employs up to 700 staff, told investors at the start of November 2022 that its operating arm, Design, had filed a notice to appoint administrators.

PwC to oversee administration

This is a dramatic turn in fortunes for, which in 2013 was selected as one of the initial 25 new UK businesses by the British government's Future Fifty programme - supporting ‘high-growth technology companies’ that the government wanted to help to expand and float. While rapidly expanding operations across Europe, and growing sales in the process – hitting £100 million in sales by 2017 – it fuelled further launches with a number of successful funding campaigns – raising raised £38 million in growth capital in 2015, a further £40 million in equity funding from institutional investors to consolidate in 2018, and in 2021 it completed its IPO on the London Stock Exchange, with a market capitalisation of £775 million.  

Over that same period, however, the firm also said goodbye to many of its early leaders. In 2015, Chloe Macintosh stepped down as Creative Director, while Ning Li stepped down as Chief Executive in 2017. And 2022 saw replacement Philippe Chainieux had stepped down from his role as CEO with immediate effect due to personal family reasons.

Market conditions meanwhile had toughened significantly for Though it experienced a rise in sales at the beginning of 2020s, in 2022, its sales began to drop significantly, mostly due to chain supply problems, the cost-of-living crisis, and the incoming recession. Even so, it continued trying to expand – buying up boutiques platform Trouva, in a move that triggered a spend between £13-18 million on both the acquisition and capex in 2022. But as the economic crisis deepened, it became clear things would not improve, and the company was put up for sale.

With no buyer to be found, stopped taking any new orders – with the company to the brink of collapse. The company's shares on the stock market were suspended as it appointed PwC to its administration.

A statement from noted, “In light of MDL’s requirement for further funding, and in order to preserve value for its creditors, the board of MDL took the decision on 26 October 2022 to temporarily suspend new customer orders. Made has now been notified that the board of MDL has resolved to file notice of its intention to appoint administrators, with a view to appointing Zelf Hussain, Peter David Dickens and Rachael Maria Wilkinson of PwC as administrators of MDL.”

The statement clarified that PwC would seek to secure a sale of the firm, given that it received proposals from interested suitors during the aborted month-long sale process. However, there is no certainty a deal can be reached.