LUXURY lingerie retailer Rigby & Peller plans to create a cluster of new stores in the North and Midlands following the opening of its ninth store in Harrogate.
The new store marks the company’s expansion into the North for the first time and chairman Dirk De Vos said the company was looking at more sites outside its southern heartland.
Manchester and Birmingham are favoured locations alongside Leeds and York.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post at the store’s official opening, he said: “Now we’ve opened a store in Harrogate, it makes financial sense to create a cluster of stores in the North.”
The 1,500 sq ft Harrogate store, a former Sony Centre, is located on a corner opposite James Street in the town centre.
Mr De Vos also revealed the retailer had looked at opening its first Yorkshire store in the Bond Street/Albion Street area of Leeds city centre but it decided against the move because it was worried about the effect Trinity Leeds would have on the rest of the city centre.
“We looked at a site in Leeds two months before Trinity Leeds opened, but it was too much of a risk,” said Mr De Vos.
“We didn’t know what effect the shopping centre would have on the flow of shoppers around the city centre.”
Instead, Rigby & Peller turned its attention to Harrogate and found the former Sony Centre store last autumn.
Leeds-based chartered surveyors, Central Retail, advised Rigby & Peller.
Tom Limbert, partner at Central Retail, said: “The formal expansion strategy hasn’t been finalised yet but there are a number of potential locations.
“Rigby & Peller are planning to open at least two more stores up north and over the next few months they will be discussing where they will be.”
He added: “Originally, both Leeds and Harrogate were in the running for the first northern store. But it got close to the opening of Trinity and they decided to put Leeds on hold but it hasn’t put them off considering Leeds in the future.
“They will look at where people come from to the Harrogate shop. If a lot of people come from Leeds they might look again at the city.
“They decided to see what impact Trinity Leeds has on the rest of the city and look at the location again later.”
The Harrogate boutique, which employs six staff, features five fitting rooms where specially-trained lingerie stylists offer a fitting service.
Each member of staff undergoes several months of training in lingerie fitting and they never use a tape measure, relying on their expert eye instead. Speaking to guests at the official opening, Mr De Vos said: “We have received overwhelming support from the people of Harrogate but also from a lot of local businesses.
“We have been out on the streets for a couple of months looking for a good location and we’ve been meeting many people in Harrogate.
“We felt at home from the very start.”
Rigby & Peller opened it’s first store in London in 1939.
Husband and wife team June and Harold Kenton bought the business for £20,000 in 1982 and latterly their children, Jill and David, have helped to run the business.
They sold an 87 per cent stake in the business to Belgian bra-maker Van de Velde in 2011.
The Kenton family retained a minority 13 per cent stake in the company. Mrs Kenton and David Kenton remained on the company’s board of directors.
Rigby & Peller has nine stores including Harrogate. There are five in London, one in Essex, one in Guildford and one in Cam- bridge.
It first decided to open a store in the North in 2010. Mrs Kenton and a team of trained fitters took its service out of the shop for the first time in its 70-year history for a ‘trunk show’ at Rudding Park in Harrogate to test whether there was a market to expand into the region.
Mrs Kenton, Royal Corsetiere, added: “It’s an area I’ve wanted to open for many years because I felt Harrogate was Rigby & Peller.
“So many of our customers have come down to London for Rigby & Peller and so I thought why shouldn’t we be up here?”
As well as holding the Royal Warrant for the Queen, Rigby & Peller is also used by A-list celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johansson.
Founded in 1919, Van de Velde is a public company which designs and manufactures a range of luxury lingerie brands including Marie Jo, Andres Sarda and Prima Donna.
It retails in the UK, North America and parts of Europe.