Lingerie firm takes on M&S

THE Alternative Investment Market is set to gain its first national retailer, in the shape of lingerie and nightwear specialist La Senza.

The company plans to roll itself out as a premium brand, a notch above Marks & Spencer, which dominates the UK lingerie market, worth nearly pounds 1.5bn.

It will be one of the first new retailing concepts to come to market since the 1980s, when the likes of Next, Sock Shop and Tie Rack enriched, and in many cases subsequently impoverished, investors.

La Senza hopes to raise more than pounds 15m through a placing to fund expansion to more than 100 UK outlets over the next few years from the 22 it has now. The concept was developed by retailing concern Suzy Shier, a Canadian company quoted on the Montreal and Toronto stock exchanges. It launched La Senza shops in Canada in 1990 and the first six in UK, boasting a distinctive Art Deco styling, at the end of 1994.

Suzy Shier is expected to retain a majority stake in the business after the flotation, which is due in May.

The company says it has already achieved sales per square foot of pounds 511 a year - just below Marks & Spencer. Towns where it already has stores include Nottingham, Cambridge, Thurrock and Milton Keynes.

Knickerbox occupies a similar niche, but Laurence Lewin, a senior manager with Suzy Shier who set up La Senza in the UK, says the two are different. Knickerbox, a kiosk operation, concentrates on bras and knickers, whereas La Senza takes in a wider range of fashion items. Its stores are also substantially bigger, at up to 2,300 square feet.

He attributes the initial success of the business to style and focus: "There is a strong fashion content to our designs, which is not what buyers go to the main store groups for."

All the merchandise is designed by La Senza, which caters to a wide age range, although most of its customers are aged 18 to 35.

Marks & Spencer, which dominates the UK women's underwear market with a 32 per cent share, has broadened its designs, and turned to sexier ranges to increase sales. At the other extreme, Ann Summers sex shops specialise in risque lingerie, but there has been no news of late of any further expansion.

However, competition in the sector could hot up. Stephen Hinchliffe's Facia group bought the Contessa chain of women's lingerie shops from Courtaulds Textiles a year ago. The 130 shops were targeted at women over 35, but Hinchliffe promised to redesign the ranges and widen its appeal.

Victoria's Secret, the upmarket US lingerie chain and catalogue operation, is also known to be considering entering the UK market.

Clive Vaughan, of the market research group Verdict, approves of La Senza's aims: "It seems to be a stylish, different brand, and our belief is that it will be a success."

La Senza is listing its shares on AIM because it lacks the five- year track record needed to list on the main market. It made sales of more than pounds 10m in the year ending 3 February, 1996. Mr Lewin says it should reach break even by the end of this year.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power