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Exclusive: Iris to expand London portfolio

London-based women’s and childrenswear independent Iris is eyeing up two more store locations in the capital after securing investment of just over £1m, Drapers can reveal.

The eight-store independent chain has received the majority of the investment from Guinness Asset Management’s Guinness EIS fund.

Iris has its own website and seven stores in London and an eighth in Amersham, Buckinghamshire. In June 2017, the Iris team acquired five Question Air stores which have all since been re-branded as Iris.

Despite an upsurge in retail shop closures on the high street, Iris is planning to open to two new village stores in London between 2019 and 2020, featuring its own brand By Iris and several other designers.

Iris chairwoman Jo Staveley told Drapers: “We haven’t decided on specific locations yet, but they will be based in high-wealth local villages like the stores we have already. The shops will have to be in locations that cater to our customer demographic, which tends to be the working woman and the mum-at-home. We’re looking at places like Muswell Hill, Richmond, maybe the lower end of the King’s Road. We’ve chosen London because of infrastructure. We’ve got a van that drives around London that can deliver the stock.”

Staveley, who was former Cath Kidston and LK Bennett managing director and invested in Iris in 2013, added: “They will be similar to the store sizes we have already. We tend to stick to around the 1,100 sq ft benchmark and pay no more than £60-£70k annually on rent.

“I think the key point to make here is that Iris has performed really well despite the doom and gloom on the high street. We are doing so well at the moment. Not many independent shops are fortunate enough to be able to be opening new stores, especially in London. The reason Iris works so well is because of our price points. We set a price ceiling of £500, which makes the products affordable. Our other selling points are the lovely, local locations. Customers prefer being local rather than trudging into town. People also trust our brand selection.”

Iris was co-founded in 2004 by Sarah Claassen and Annie Pollet, who are managing director and creative director respectively.

It currently stocks brands including Veja, Bella Freud, Ganni, Parka London and By Iris, which fills around 20%-30% of each store.

Retail prices range from £10 for hair accessories to £695 for a Woolrich parka – the “sweet spot” is £150.

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