Rigby & Peller's undercover job as it looks at growth in North

FOR decades Rigby & Peller has been the Queen's favourite destination for underwear and now the iconic lingerie boutique could soon be catering for the ladies of Yorkshire.

The firm is visiting Harrogate this week to test whether there is a market to expand into the region.

Owner June Kenton and a team of trained fitters are taking its service out of the shop for the first time in its 70-year history for a 'trunk show' at Rudding Park.

Rigby & Peller has seven stores, five in London, one in Essex and one in Cambridge, but the company is preparing to expand across the UK.

The company already has a presence in Yorkshire. Chairman Maurice Miller and marketing director Liz Hawkes are based in Dean Clough, Halifax.

Mrs Kenton, 75, who bought Rigby & Peller for 20,000 in 1982, handed over the day-to-day running of the business to her son David earlier this year but still owns part of the company with husband Harold and continues to visit the Queen to make fittings.

She said: "Everyone who comes down to us from Yorkshire asks why we aren't there. Eventually we will open up in the north but this is a real trial for us to see if we are wanted up there. It also needs to be the right location."

The company is currently putting plans in place to expand across the country. "We are in a transition stage where we are restructuring ourselves so we are ready to expand," she said. "We want to have a store in every area but we don't want to open shops willy nilly, there needs to be a structure in place.

"We are looking at it very thoroughly and taking on people who will help us move the company on."

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.

Unlike many other retailers it has continued to grow during the economic downturn. Its latest available figures for the year ended January 31, 2009 show that turnover increased by 13.5 per cent to 9.9m, although pre-tax profit fell from 445,876 to 167,928.

"We are continuing to do very well and have expanded over the last two years. We are very specialist and our customers realise that its better to buy three bras in a year that fit properly than eight that don't."

Ms Kenton believes the biggest change to the business is the range of stock it sells.

"When I first began working, the biggest cup size you could buy was a C," she said. Rigby & Peller now stocks bras in sizes 30A up to 48M. "We were the first company to introduce a bra which was a 30 round the back," she added.

Mrs Kenton is convinced that a good bra is a key to good health. "Young girls are getting larger bosoms. I'm not sure why, but it means being fitted with a good bra is even more important.

"The problem is that their bras are being chosen by their mothers, who have also never had a bra fitting. You wouldn't buy your child shoes without having them fitted, and it should be the same for a bra."

The event at Rudding Park will be appointment-only and those joining Rigby & Peller will receive free champagne and other refreshments, followed by a chance to browse through the lingerie, swimwear and nightwear in the showroom.

Ten per cent of sales taken on the day will be donated to The Prince's Trust Charity.

Liz Hawkes, director of marketing at Rigby & Peller, said: "This is a unique day and the first time that we will have taken the Rigby & Peller concept outside of our stores. Our 'capsule'" showroom won't feature all our stock but we will have our best selling ranges there, as well as our autumn/winter fashion pieces and swimwear."

For more information about the event and to make an appointment, ring 0207 7586180, or email shaines@rigbyandpeller.com

A favourite of royalty

1939: Rigby & Peller estab-lished in South Molton Street by Mrs Rigby and Mrs Peller.

1960: Royal Warrant granted by Queen Elizabeth II.

1982: June Kenton becomes grantee of Royal Warrant as Corsetiere to the Queen.

1992: Rigby & Peller signs a world-wide licensing agreement for its own lingerie collection to be manufactured by Eveden of Northamptonshire.

1995: Second store opens in Mayfair.

2006:Third store opens in Brent Cross Shopping centre.

2007: New store opens in Chelsea and a fifth in Blue-water shopping centre, Essex.

2008: Sixth store opens in the new Westfield shopping centre. After terminating the licensing and distribution agreement with Eveden the firm re-launches its lingerie and swimwear collection.

2009: Seventh store opens in Cambridge.