How the heck did the world's largest slipper start-up slide into bankruptcy?

January 07, 2019

How the heck did the world's largest slipper start-up slide into bankruptcy?

You and almost a million other people in 100 countries. And yet as of December 27th, the London-based business ceased trading and called in the administrators KPMG. From hero to zero in less than four years.

But they were supposed to be worth £100 million big ones. How did that happen? 

Strapped for cash, probably a bad Christmas and they had a terrible customer service reputation, with returns apparently not accepted for those who bought in the US. They also started to sell stuff like £79 lounge pants and £119 weird-looking jackets. I mean who wants a yellow Mahabis watch? 

Zero persons. But the sizing was the real killer - I had to return mine for a seven! And your feet can overheat. And that outdoor sole frequently flaps off...  

Wrong sizing was a fundamental problem and as early as 2015, there were internet headlines like: "Do not buy Mahabis slippers as gifts" because of the strict 14 day returns policy. True, there were many sweaty feet complaints (vinegar apparently helps) and malodorant slippers were also debated (Ziploc-ed overnight in a freezer was suggested). I digress...

No, all fascinating. Anyway who is responsible for this mess? 

Ankur Shah, the 37-year-old son of Lancashire doctors who was a barrister before deciding the world needed the ultimate slipper. As recently as October he was pictured, legs akimbo on a bed in a silky dressing gown telling The Times he was on track to sell "well over" £20m this year.

Oops. But wasn't he a big advocator of the laid back, downtime lifestyle? 

Oh yes - Shah totally spoke to the millennial work ethic. In November he launched the 'Mahabis Manifesto', a downtime movement emphasising the importance of "taking time out to step back and relax".  The head office already worked a four day week and there were rumours of a four hour day.

They'll certainly have time to relax now. Perhaps they thought maintaining a successful start-up was a part-time pursuit.  

Indeed. According to the Financial Times, Shah was so laid back he never bothered to file any official figures with Companies House. Unaudited financial statements as of June 2017 revealed debts worth £2.6m (up from £927K the previous year) and creditors wanted their cash back pronto this year.  

But what about all those customers stuck with Christmas presents that squeeze their toes?  

Stuffed. The official announcement on the website warned customers seeking to return purchases that they were "unlikely to receive a full refund". Or any. Already eBay is awash with hipster slippers for a fraction of the retail price. They'll be in TK Maxx next. 
Are there any winners in this sorry story of start-up woe?

Facebook, obvs. Mahabis spent MILLIONS with Zuckerberg & Co every year to pump out those annoying Mahabis ads that chased you around the internet.


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