Coming up fast: Consultant strips down for online battle in underwear - The smalls business looms large in e-shopping as City veterans defect to cyberspace and find themselves back on the ground floor - in lingerie. Rhymer Rigby files an undercover report

Coming up fast: Consultant strips down for online battle in underwear - The smalls business looms large in e-shopping as City veterans defect to cyberspace and find themselves back on the ground floor - in lingerie. Rhymer Rigby files an undercover report

by RHYMER RIGBY

Mike Ross grins. 'How about, 'This man wants to get into your pants'?' We're drinking coffee on the balcony of his London flat while he suggests headlines for this article. Smutty as it may sound, his assertion is true: in a manner of speaking, he does want to get into your pants. He aspires to be Britain's biggest underwear merchant and believes the way to the nation's gusset is through its fingertips. Specifically, he wants his online company, easyshop, to be the UK's largest underwear retailer.

Ross is the recently appointed chief executive and part owner of GDN, easyshop's holding company. He typifies a new trend in e-commerce which has recently crossed the Atlantic - high-flyers from areas such as the City quitting to set up internet businesses. Ross himself left behind a lucrative career as consultant (for the last two years in e-business) at McKinsey - so he's better informed than most about the viability of e-commerce.

In e-commerce terms, his business has been around for some time. Set up in 1995 by a technical whiz called John Gillespie and funded by Daniel Nabarro (from the family behind the London law firm, Nabarro Nathanson) and a cousin of Ross' mother, it initially developed web sites. In late 1997, the company decided that site construction was getting terribly competitive and it redirected its efforts to e-commerce. A year later, in December 1998, easyshop.co.uk opened, selling women's underwear and perfume.

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