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Future splashes $100m on US fashion

Future Plc, the UK-US specialist media group, is acquiring WhoWhatWear (WWW), the California-based digital women’s fashion brand. The unconfirmed price is reported to be $100m in cash. The business is believed to be profitable.

WWW was established in 2006, has 12m monthly users and generates revenue from advertising and e-commerce. It also produces a line of clothing and accessories. It offers fashion advice but, even beyond ‘advertorial’ content, the entire site is shoppable: every piece of content can be clicked on and push the reader into a buyer.

The site was founded initially as a newsletter by former Elle journalists Katherine Power and Hillary Kerr. In 2012, they rolled it into Clique Brands, an 11-year-old fashion startup that is part media company, part consumer product house, which has raised more than $20m in total funding, including from Amazon.

The £2.4bn Future is expected to provide more details of the deal to investors with its six-month results in London next week. These may include some financials and what inter-connected Clique brands and/or key people are also included in the acquisition. But the deal is significant because it creates for the UK-listed company the same kind of magazine-commerce combination among young women that the company has exploited so effectively with its TechRadar and magazines for men. While Future claims an online audience of one-third of adults in the US, much of this will have been male – until now.

Dana Settle, of Greycroft Partners, a leading investor in WWW, said last year: “I really feel like it’s a new kind of company — I know that sounds like a very venture capital thing to say – but Disney started once, Hearst started once. That’s how I think of WhoWhatWear. They are building a new kind of consumer company that takes the data they have from all the interactions they have with their audiences … and leverages that to develop products that they know their customers want. If you were starting a Disney today, that’s what you would do.”

That was music to the ears of Future.

More than that, WWW brings important brand licensing skills. Future has long been focused on Meredith (now owned by Dotdash / IAC) and its $100m of profit from product licensing. This latest acquisition could help the UK company develop licensing on both sides of the Atlantic. Following its 2021 acquisition of Marie Claire in the US, Future publishes the brand in both countries.

This will not be the last time that Future Plc finds its US ambitions linked to Dotdash Meredith: all the signs are that the two companies will increasingly become rivals across lifestyle magazines, digital services and e-commerce. They’re watching each other closely.

Future Plc