German etailer Zalando is cutting back its UK business just two years after launching here, with most of its British staff facing redundancy unless they relocate to its Berlin head office.
Drapers understands that up to 18 roles have been put under consultation, affecting the entire merchandising and assistant buying teams.
Just three buying roles will be kept on in London, including senior men’s footwear buyer Neil Steptoe, who joined from premium footwear retailer Kurt Geiger in April 2012.
Women’s footwear buyer Anika Nelson and women’s clothing buyer Lucy Dunn will also stay on. An unknown proportion of the UK finance team will also keep their jobs.
The shake-up follows the departure - thought to be unrelated -of two other key team members. Women’s footwear buyer Anthony Booth - another former Kurt Geiger employee - left last month, and UK buying manager Alexandra Scolding left last week.
Zalando, which has had a presence in the UK since 2011, carries out most of its European operations from Germany.
It is thought the staff changes are unlikely to affect its trading plans in the UK, which the etailer still considers an important market, albeit a relatively small proportion of the business - the UK is believed to make up about 1% of total sales.
A spokesperson from Zalando’s head office explained that the UK office is just a purchasing office but the retailer has decided to centralize its buying department with most now being done in Berlin because of the international appeal of brands bought by the UK team.
The spokesman said: “With most brands in the UK if people like them in the UK then they are liked across the rest of Europe.”
Last week, Zalando reported sales of €1.5bn (£900m) for the full year to the end of 2012, breaking even in Germany, Austria and Switzerland for the first time since it launched in 2009.
Drapers understands the etailer is planning to grow its presence across Europe, helped by the launch of Emeza, its premium offshoot website. Emeza, which sells clothing, footwear and accessories from premium labels and designers including Halston Heritage,
J Brand, MW by Matthew Williamson and See by Chloé, launched in Germany late last year.
The retailer plans to launch a UK version of Emeza, which currently sells only women’s fashion, next month.
A men’s section of the site is expected to launch in the UK in the autumn.
Last August, Zalando received an undisclosed amount of funding from JP Morgan Asset Management and Quadrant Capital Advisors to help it grow in Europe.