IT infrastructure scared away potential buyers of struggling e-commerce site

Whatever gear storied cycling site Wiggle used didn't propel it to a successful sale after the biz hit bumps

If there's a MAMIL in your life – a Middle Aged Man in Lycra – you may have heard them lament the recent collapse of UK-based cycling and outdoor goods website Wiggle, which has been revealed to have had IT infrastructure in a state that scared away prospective buyers.

Wiggle was a very highly regarded site, as it stocked an impressive range at keen prices. Its house brands – especially the DhB Lycra range – were vastly cheaper than many biking brands, some of which somehow charge $500 or more for a full set of skintight kit.

The site won friends around the world, because it shipped almost everywhere – swiftly. In some places it even teamed with local bike stores, so that customers could order bikes or parts and have a nearby mechanic do the dirty work. That arrangement appealed as the impact of global retailers that buy in bulk and offer deep discounts - thereby pricing locals out of the market - is an issue of concern in the cycling community.

Wiggle was therefore mostly considered an example of e-commerce done well and thoughtfully.

But after the COVID pandemic ended, the sporting goods market tanked – and Wiggle's parent company Signa Sports United (SSU) hit trouble. So much trouble that in October 2023 Wiggle and sibling brand Chain Reaction Cycles were placed in administration.

Receivers sought a new home for Wiggle, and on Wednesday posted a progress report [PDF] that reveals the site's IT estate scared potential buyers away.

"A going concern sale was not achievable due to the inability to right size the Company's operating fixed overheads, particularly the IT infrastructure," the report states.

That infrastructure "had been built on the assumption that the Company would achieve sustainable annual revenues in excess of £1bn."

Wiggle got nowhere near that mark – "even during peak sales through COVID-19 trading."

As would-be buyers considered Wiggle's ops, they saw its IT and ran away screaming.

Or, as the receiver put it: "The inflexibility of the IT infrastructure ultimately caused the parties considering a going concern purchase to all fall away."

Twenty-four parties signed non-disclosure agreements allowing them to peruse Wiggle's affairs ahead of a possible purchase, and seven meet with management.

But the state of Wiggle's tech proved decisive: nobody was willing to buy and operate the brand.

Just why Wiggle’s IT infrastructure was so inflexible was not discussed. In these cloudy times, it’s certainly odd to build for colossal scale given the many vendors who promise elastic services.

Wiggle appears to have picked the wrong gear, literally and metaphorically.

This story does not end in a wipeout. One party decided to acquire "certain business intellectual property" for £3 million – underlining the notion that the deal-breaker was Wiggle's tech.

Maybe that sale of IP means Wiggle will one day again delight cyclists, even if its tech horrified buyers – the same reaction most people have when they see MAMILs. ®

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