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The North beckons as Rigby & Peller aims to broaden its UK customer base

The lingerie brand has set its sights on growth, writes Kim Benjamin.

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Rigby & Peller, the Queen's corsetiere, last month signalled its intention to boost its presence in the UK, as it revealed it may open stores in Yorkshire.

The brand, which was acquired by the Belgian group Van de Velde in 2011, has hitherto maintained its UK presence exclusively in the South of England, with eight branches in upmarket areas including Knightsbridge, Mayfair and Chelsea in London, and Guildford in Surrey.

It prides itself on the fact that its fitters undergo a rigorous training course that enables them to tell a customer's bra size without using a tape measure.

With much of Rigby & Peller's online sales coming from the North and as far afield as Scotland, its expansion plans are aimed at capitalising on this market. They are also a response to those customers who have moved away from London but remain faithful to the brand.

At the same time, Rigby & Peller has also been active abroad, expanding to Europe and China with plans to increase the number of stores it has in Asia in the coming year.

In the past year, the brand has attempted to widen its UK customer base by appealing to a younger audience. This has included moving away from its traditional burgundy packaging with the introduction of a fresh look. But what should the brand - where bra prices start at just over £30 and which can charge hundreds of pounds for its made-to-measure products - do to ensure that its products broaden their appeal across the globe?

We asked Carrie Eames, director at consultancy Cream Communications & Marketing and former international marketing director at lingerie manufacturer Eveden, which owns the Freya and Goddess labels, and Shaeren McKenzie, group marketing director at McArthurGlen Designer Outlets, who was previously marketing director at Gossard.

RIGBY & PELLER STATS

8 - The number of stores that Rigby & Peller has in the South

£8m - The amount Van de Velde paid in 2011 for an 87% stake in the business

Source: Rigby & Peller

DIAGNOSIS BRAND HEALTH CHECK

Two industry experts on how Rigby & Peller can extend its reach without diluting its reputation

Carrie Eames, director, Cream Communications & Marketing (former international marketing manager, Eveden, and consultant to Leia Lingerie)

Rigby & Peller knows what most retailers somehow don't: buying lingerie should feel like a treat. While a Rigby & Peller receipt may leave partners weak at the knees in more ways than one, the women travelling from afar to their eight Southern boutiques are fierce advocates - something every brand covets.

It needs to consider the emphasis it places on its Royal Warrant - 2012's decreasing number of Jubilee parties the further North you went tells a tale. However, if Kate Middleton were a customer, her fashion credentials might change perceptions.

The plan

- Maintain that incredible service, which is the brand's true USP. Its ability to size customers up at a glance is compelling and, once experienced, rivals seem (perhaps unfairly) clumsy in comparison.

- Service must not be compromised in the rush to get more doors open on the high street.

- Spread the word. Still a niche brand, Rigby & Peller could get its existing customers to help its marketing efforts via an online customer review system like Feefo, showing ratings in Google stars.

Shaeren McKenzie, Group marketing director, McArthurGlen Designer Outlets (and formerly marketing director, Gossard)

Rigby & Peller is a classic British heritage brand, renowned for its Royal Warrant and excellent fitting service.

It is especially popular with brides.

The UK lingerie market is crowded and competition continues to arrive, including Italian brand Intimissimi and US brand Victoria's Secret. Both these names have a strong brand identity and engage effectively with the consumer; they have built up a loyal, aspirational following. However, they have a very different positioning from Rigby & Peller.

The question that needs to be asked is: 'Who is the Rigby & Peller woman?'

The plan

- Launch a strong, aspirational campaign - it is a given that the product fits well, but does it make the customer look and feel great too?

- Create brand imagery that immediately shouts 'Rigby & Peller', before the customers even see the name. Ask what it is that Rigby & Peller stands for - how does it emotionally engage consumers?

- Make the most of the brand's reputation as one that understands the shape of every woman who walks through its doors or clicks on its digital sites.

This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk

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