The founder of lingerie business Ultimo has just finished rolling out shop-in-shops in Debenhams. So how has the brand fared during its first foray into retail?
Michelle Mone prefers beetles to acorns. At her regular London haunt – the Dorch-ester Hotel in the capital – Scottish entrepreneur Mone opts for the French-inspired suites, which are characterised by a picture of a beetle on the back of the chairs, rather than the English-themed rooms and their acorn symbols.
But with her leopard print blouse, peep-toe heels and tight jeans, Mone’s on-trend style seems at odds with the more traditional, country-themed suite and its pastel blue and cream colour palette.
Style is important to Mone. She meets Drapers fresh from a visit to high-end hairdresser Charles Worthington and plays hostess while applying her make-up. Still, when you’re in the public eye as much as Mone is, it pays to look good.
Mone, who set up lingerie business MJM International with her husband in 1996, has been busy opening 10 shop-in-shops for Ultimo in department store group Debenhams, and insists on being present at every launch. “My team tell me it’s not necessary for me to be at every single opening, but it has been a dream of mine to open shops so I want to be there, even though it means travelling the country in such a short space of time,” she explains.
Lingerie label Ultimo, which accounts for 60% of MJM International’s business, is fronted by celebrities including Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding and former Hollyoaks actress Gemma Atkinson, and represents Mone’s first foray into retailing. “I want Ultimo to become the Victoria’s Secret of the UK,” she says, referring to the US lingerie retailer. “That’s why we launched concessions. I totally respect Victoria’s Secret, particularly for its marketing, and Ultimo has all the same qualities except for the shops – until now.”
Mone hopes to roll out the shop-in-shop concept – the last of the initial 10 opened at the end of December – to as many Debenhams stores as possible. “We’re currently looking at 60,” she says. “After the first five shop-in-shops opened, Debenhams said sales of Ultimo were up 200%.”