Eco retailer Flora & Fauna has been rescued by founder Julie Mathers who will re-acquire the company from BWX (ASX: BWX) in partnership with New Zealand-based online retailer HealthPost.
The pair will also take control of e-commerce site Nourished Life, which alongside Flora & Fauna had an uncertain future after their now-former parent company BWX fell into administration one month ago.
Though the terms of the deal to acquire Mathers’ Flora & Fauna and online retailer Nourished Life were not disclosed due to confidentiality agreements between the parties, the cross-border partners have established a new NZ-based company, The Future Collective, to own the two brands.
Included in the deal is IP, goodwill, websites, data and stock across both Flora & Fauna and Nourished Life, the latter having been originally founded by Irene Falcone who sold the business in 2017 before setting up non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits superstore Sans Drinks.
For Mathers, the acquisition comes nearly two years after she sold her business for around $30 million to the now-defunct BWX which collapsed under the weight of mounting losses and struggling subsidiaries.
According to HealthPost - a family-owned NZ business established by the Butler family in 1988 and led by Abel Butler and his partner Lilani Rogers - the company was ‘compelled to act quickly to make an offer as soon a receivers KPMG offered the brands for sale’.
The company is a leading NZ pure-play online retailer of natural health, beauty and eco products, with a range of 6,000-plus items from more than 350 brands that are sold worldwide via its website.
According to a media statement, The Future Collective’s mission is to ‘show that the future of business is being purposeful and profitable and the two work together in balance’.
Speaking to Business News Australia, Mathers says the two brands are now in “very, very good hands”.
“I’m really happy that the brands, particularly Flora & Fauna, are in very, very good hands,” she says.
“I can’t speak more highly of HealthPost and the team there - they are really good people and they’ve run a great business for 35 years now.
“It’s been quite lovely to work with them through the process, and I’ve been really impressed with them as well.”
Despite the feelings of joy Mathers has in announcing the return of Flora & Fauna to her control, the founder - who also owns babywear brand Snuggle Hunny Kids - admits there are some ‘mixed emotions’.
“When you see where [Flora & Fauna] is at at the moment, and the work that needs to be done, I’m just glad it’s in safe hands,” she says.
“One of the bigger issues which is widely known is that there are lots of out-of-stocks across Flora & Fauna and Nourished Life which has absolutely hampered sales because you can’t operate a business when you don’t have stock.
“So a lot of that has to be set up again. We’ve got to find a warehouse and systems - there’s quite a lot of building to be done again in the business. It’s definitely not a quick thing to do.”
Mathers says she was approached by HealthPost to make the acquisition as a partnership, and notes she is glad the NZ business is helping run the show considering its speciality is e-commerce.
“This is their bread and butter - they run online businesses. I think this is a big difference with BWX because BWX really didn’t run online businesses,” she says.
“They’re very good at online, they’re very good at working with suppliers and having great partnerships. Ethically, they’re a B Corp which is brilliant, so they’re hugely driven by values.
“To be working with a really good partner on this, I think it’s all I can ask for because, as I know from the first time around, you can get it wrong.”
Though the founder is thrilled to be re-taking control of Flora & Fauna, she adds that she is just as excited to now co-own Nourished Life which has been in BWX’s portfolio since 2017.
“It’s a really great brand with very passionate customers - they’re really passionate about natural health,” Mathers says.
“It’s been owned for a long period of time, so there is a bit of work to do as well, but its such an amazing brand and a really great business.
“The customers are still there - it just needs to be nurtured again.”
HealthPost CEO Butler says he has admired both Flora & Fauna and Nourished Life for a long time.
“We want to help these businesses flourish into the future. We recognise there is a lot of work to be done; with our experience in e-commerce, health, wellness and natural beauty, we are confident we are the right custodians of these purpose-driven brands,” he says.
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