Tiger makes millions for couple who brought Danish store to UK

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Philip and Emma Bier sell stake in homeware retailer for many millions 11 years after opening first shop in Britain

The couple who brought the Danish homewares retailer Tiger to Britain have received a multimillion-pound windfall after selling their stake in the business.

Philip and Emma Bier opened the first Tiger shop in the UK in Basingstoke in 2005 after Philip Bier gave up a career in photography because he thought the quirky Danish brand could thrive in the UK.

Tiger has been described as Denmarks answer to Swedish rival Ikea, and a posh Poundland. Its products cost as little as 1 and its bestsellers during the Christmas period included a basketball net for toilet doors, a cocktail maker set and a handheld disco ball.

The brand is now one of the fastest growing retailers in the UK. It has around 90 shops in the country and in 2015, the most recent financial accounts available, sales rose 69% to 62m. Tiger rebranded itself last year, changing its name to Flying Tiger Copenhagen.

Tiger is also renowned for offloading unsold items to local charities. Last month, Philip Bier invited nurses from St Marys Hospital in Oxford Street to choose 200 Christmas presents for sick children after toys worth thousands of pounds were stolen from a ward.

Emma
Emma and Philip Bier, founding members of the shop Tiger in the UK. Photograph: handout

Tiger has split the UK into five separate companies, with the Biers running stores in London and the south-east. The Biers owned 50% of Tiger Retail Limited, which has 44 shops, in partnership with the brands Copenhagen-based parent company, Zebra. Philip Bier acted as managing director while Emma Bier was head of design and marketing.

However, the Biers have now sold their stake in Tiger Retail to Zebra for an undisclosed amount and will step down from the company. Philip Bier said: We have opened 44 stores and have put a fantastic team in place that will remain once I leave. The brand still has enormous expansion potential here in the south-east. The time is right for Zebra to be 100% owners of Tiger Retail Limited and facilitate the further growth of the business both through store openings and optimising the current portfolio of shops.

Tiger has already proved a lucrative investment for the Biers. In 2015 the company paid a 2m dividend to its owners after recording sales of 41m and profits of 7m.

The companys partner in northern England, Richard Boyd, will replace Philip Bier as the managing director.

Philip Bier is Danish and initially moved to the UK to study photography at the London College of Printing. However, after meeting the founder of Tiger, Lennart Lajboschitz, in Copenhagen, he became convinced that the chain could prosper in Britain so took out a second mortgage to help finance its first shop in Basingstoke.

I met Lajboschitz socially on and off in Copenhagen and we thought it was a brand that would do really well, he told the Guardian in 2014. My wife was pregnant and I remember waking up and thinking Im going to be a 60-year-old photographer if or when my daughter goes to university. I liked the idea of her leaving university without any debt and that wasnt going to happen if I remained a photographer.

Lajboschitz founded Tiger in 1995 as a market stall in Copenhagen. The first shop was called Zebra but when he opened a second shop his daughter reportedly told him: We have a zebra and now we can have a tiger too. In Danish tiger is pronounced tee-yuh, which also means a 10-crown coin, which is similar in value to 1.

The company now has more than 600 shops in 28 countries, employing more than 3,500 people. It is opening more than three shops a week.

Just because it is affordable, it doesnt need to be nasty, Bier said in the same Guardian interview. The bulk of what we sell costs 1 to 3. There are no gimmicks, no loyalty cards or sales, we dont do 99p. Its just very clean.

Originally we went head-to-head with pound stores. Now we are a variety store heading towards becoming a design store. We have started to employ our own product designers. When we first opened we were selling end of lines we bought from factories and there was no consistent look to the stores. That has completely changed.

Bier said Tiger does not want its shops to be an ordinary experience and that high street stores must be entertaining given the growth in online shopping.

The brand was described by one retail analyst as being a bit like an Ikea marketplace on speed. When BHS collapsed last April, Mary Portas, the retail consultant, said one way to save its department stores would be to emulate Tiger.

Look at Tiger, which has come on to our high streets, she wrote in the Guardian. It has done an extraordinary job of taking that basic fundamental market, that was the old Woolies, and [making] it sexy.

Imagine if British Home Stores ground floor was like Tiger, its fashion floor like Uniqlo or Primark and its home stuff like Ikea. Value with sex appeal all under one roof. Then add some small startups that are all young British makers or designers.

Michael Linander, the global retail director for the brand, said the UK would remain one of its most important markets. A visit to Flying Tiger Copenhagen is never boring. We offer an ever-changing assortment of award-winning own-designed products at affordable prices. Our concept has been well received in the UK which will continue to be one of our most important markets.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/02/tiger-makes-millions-for-couple-who-brought-danish-store-to-uk

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