Online crystal ball predicts trends for interior designers

Entrepreneur Marc Worth tells Deirdre Hipwell about his return to the style forecasting business

Brothers Marc and Julian Worth pocketed £142m when they sold Worth Global Style Network (WGSN), their online information service for the fashion business, to media giant Emap in 2005.

Founded in 1998, WGSN had by then become the most authoritative source of research, design trend forecasting, and industry insider intelligence for the fashion industry. By providing subscribers with information ranging from what colours and styles would be hitting the catwalks to what consumers wanted to buy, it became as essential a service to the fashion industry as financial information provider Bloomberg is to the City.

Five years on from the sale, elder brother Julian is still enjoying his share of the spoils after retiring to ski and hike in Switzerland. But after a hiatus inspired by a three-year non-compete clause and his multimillion-pound payout, Marc, 48, is about to launch a new business which aims to do almost exactly what WGSN did, but for the global interior-design industry.

Stylus, his new online information service, launches next month funded by £5m of his own money. Not only is it the first big new venture for the entrepreneur since his break, but it is taking on Emap. Last week the private equity-owned media empire launched WGSN-Homebuildlife, which is also tailored for the interior design industry.

Worth, who recalls the exact moment – 4am on 15 October 2005 – he finalised the sale of WGSN to Emap, says: "For the best part of the past five years, since we sold WGSN, I have been buying minor stakes in small start-up companies, but I needed to do something else. I am too young to retire and I decided to do something I know about that is in my comfort zone."

So he set up Stylus Media Group, based in Marylebone, west London, and hired former Deutsche media investment banker Elizabeth Vlcek as his chief operating officer. He also brought in two former WGSN employees, Larry Nipon and Stuart Hubbard, as chief strategy officer and chief technology officer to complete the executive team.

Financing Stylus was less of an issue for Worth. He thought of seeking venture capital or bank finance but realised that "I was sitting on a pile of cash and could use my own money to start the business. If I financed it myself, I was also not answerable to anyone".

Since then, he has hired 40 "trend specialists" in London, New York, Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and Sydney. They will compile content and attend the world's major trade fairs seeking specialist information in 14 product categories such as furniture and bed and bath products. Worth says this "big picture forecasting" will help designers in the multibillion-pound industry to predict consumer buying and aesthetic trends thereby reducing "expensive mistakes".

When Stylus launches next month, about 350 companies will try it for two-weeks free with an option of taking a full-year, £10,000 subscription for three users. Each additional user pays an extra £500. Worth expects at least 10 per cent to convert, rising to 50 per cent in time.

Worth says he first thought about launching such a company "at least two years before we even sold WGSN". It appears Emap has been thinking along the same lines.

WGSN-Homebuildlife launched last week to provide "dedicated trend forecasting and product development services for the global home and interiors industries". It is being provided on an introductory basis to all WGSN subscribers for the remainder of their existing subscriptions, after which it will charge online users £5,000 a year for the service.

Susanna Kempe, WGSN's chief executive, says she is looking forward to the competitive challenge with her company's founder. "Homebuildlife is a much bigger service. We can be much broader and deeper and more global from the outset, but it is healthy for the industry to have choice and it's helpful for people to have a comparison."

WGSN is still the star performer within the Insight business-to-business division – one of Emap's four operating units – and last year produced more than £35m in subscriber revenues.

The challenge is on, however. In WGSN, the Worth brothers created a business that within seven years was sold for 34 times earnings before interest tax and depreciation. And his ambitions are large. He is already looking at the potential of expanding Stylus to provide information for any retailer or manufacturer of design-led consumer products, such as makers of electronic products, planes or cars, or the advertising, architecture and property development sectors.

"It is quite feasible to get to the same number of 1,500 subscribers WGSN had [when it was sold] within four to five years. That is the aim."

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Argyll Scott International: 2x Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Execution Trader

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global Rolling Spot FX, Comm...

Citifocus Ltd: ACA - Financial Reporting

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Chartered accountant (ACA or CPA), must be...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game