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New Rigby & Peller owner eyes UK and global growth

The new owner of premium lingerie retailer Rigby & Peller is planning to open two UK stores a year from 2012 and expand the business overseas.

Belgian lingerie brand house Van de Velde acquired an 87% stake in Rigby & Peller, which has seven UK stores, for an undisclosed sum at the end of last week.

Van de Velde chief executive Ignace Van Doorselaere said he did not want to damage Rigby & Peller by expanding too quickly. “I don’t think we would look to open any more than two new stores in the UK each year,” he said.

“We have to be careful not to jeopardise the business by growing too fast and compromising on the things that make Rigby & Peller what it is, such as service and fitting expertise.”

Van de Velde owns luxury lingerie brands including Marie Jo, Andres Sarda and PrimaDonna. It has a retail presence in the US through the Intimacy chain, which it acquired three years ago and has expanded from three to 16 stores, and in Germany, France and Spain through its eight Oreia shops. Like Rigby & Peller, both retailers focus on fitting.

Van Doorselaere would not be drawn on potential UK locations for Rigby & Peller’s expansion but said Van de Velde would seek to move it out of its London heartland, where six of its stores are. Its other shop is in Cambridge. It will also look to expand the business internationally but Van Doorselaere refused to reveal the target markets.

He said: “We do have a plan for overseas. I just can’t tell you exactly what that is yet. I can say, though, that the existing team at Rigby & Peller in London will focus on the UK and we here at Van de Velde will look at other markets.”

Rigby & Peller was previously majority owned by the Kenton family, who acquired the business in 1982 and will retain a 13% stake. June Kenton and her son David Kenton will retain positions on the board.

The retailer was already the biggest stockist of Van de Velde products in the UK and, according to June Kenton, this was one of the reasons why Van de Velde approached them about a sale.

She said: “They know we understand their brands and the importance of correctly fitting their products. Also, although it is a publicly listed company in Belgium, we are both family-run businesses with a similar ethos.”

The company had approached the Kenton family about a possible sale before but had been refused. Kenton added: “It wasn’t until recently we decided that we did want to sell. They have the means to help us grow into an even better business.”

Van Doorselaere added: “We are a cash business, so by buying them we are helping them out with more investment for their ideas and allowing them to grow more quickly than they would have been able to.”

Established in 1939 by Mrs Rigby and Mrs Peller, the retailer’s first store was on London’s South Molton Street. In 1982, just after the Kentons acquired the business, it was awarded the Royal Warrant as corsetiere to Queen Elizabeth II.

Van de Velde was founded in 1919 and 44% of its shares are available through its listing. The remaining 56% belongs to the Van de Velde family.

High standards: Rigby & Peller’s service and fitting expertise won’t be lost

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