Premier Lingerie co-founder and director Paul Robinson talks exclusively to Lingerie Insight about his new company, which develops lingerie for premier league football clubs, and reveals his plans to expand the business over the coming year.
“Like all good ideas, it happened when we were in the pub having a pint before a football match,” says Premier Lingerie co-founder and director Paul Robinson. “I just ran it past a good friend of mine Jon Guy, who is the co-director now and was in advertising and marketing… By the time we got to the match, we decided we would form the company and do some research.”
Robinson, who had recently been made redundant from his job as operations manager at Wicked Lingerie in Plymouth, threw himself into the new project, a company which creates lingerie for Premier League football clubs.
The appeal of the products was obvious – after all, Katy Perry achieved national coverage and sparked massive debate in 2009 when she presented the European MTV Awards, wearing a corset with West Ham logos emblazoned across the bust. But, the question of whether there was a mass consumer market was one that Robinson was determined to address.
He went into a shopping centre in Wolverhampton, planted himself in between Ann Summers and Marks & Spencer, and proceeded to ask male and female shopper of various ages, ‘if we could produce lingerie in your club colours, would you buy it?’
“Luckily, the vast majority of them said ‘yeh, we think it is a reasonable idea,’” Robinson says.
“So, we took the – sorry for the pun – ball and ran with it. We decided to make a few samples up and approach Wolverhampton Wanderers to see if they would be interested, and they were. Eventually, we produced a range for them and it went from there really.”
According to the budding entrepreneur, female fans now make up approximately 20 percent of clubs’ fan base and the number is growing all the time. During the early days of the business, Robinson travelled the country, visiting club shops and collecting brochures. While doing so, he spotted that there was a clear gap in the market for women’s football products.
“There are not enough products for them available to purchase – below five percent,” Robinson says. “It doesn’t matter which club you go to, that is the case even in the big clubs.”
In March 2011, four months after signing Wolves, Premier Lingerie exhibited at SMEX in Wembley, a show aimed at the entirety of the UK’s sporting bodies.
The company’s concept reportedly received a significant level of interest and post-event Robinson got busy contacting football clubs, eventually landing an appointment with Newcastle United.
“We did basically the same thing,” he says, “showed them a few sample products in their colours, which was very easy. Black and white. Lovely.”
The club, which has one of the biggest female fan bases in the country, alongside Chelsea, was quick to perceive the potential profits to be made and the plethora of media attention that the lingerie would attract. Products launched on the club’s website last month and sales immediately took off, with hundreds of items sold in just the first week.
“We are struggling to keep up a little bit to be honest,” Robinson admits. “Sales were a lot bigger than what we expected and it really took us by surprise, because it is still quite early in the season, isn’t it? The sales that are being generated now are a little bit early for Christmas… I would envisage that a lot of Newcastle guys will be buying the products for their girls for Christmas and, indeed, for Valentine’s Day."
There are around 20 products currently up on the site. The range includes boy shorts, French knickers, cami tops, chemises, underwired bras, garters, thongs and a six strap suspender belt.
Prices range from £5 for a pair of stockings through to £27 for a suspender belt.
All the products are made in Derby, England. Premier Lingerie has tied in with a company called Nylon Dreams and also works hand in hand with intimate apparel manufacturer Vixen Lingerie.
“It is more expensive,” Robinson reveals, “but I would rather give a bit of work to the UK economy and be able to keep an eye on things. It can be a nightmare importing products when it comes to quality, sometimes.
“One of the reasons we call the company Premier Lingerie is that we are trying to produce a premier product. I am amazed that no one got the name. That was a bit of luck.”
Robinson is currently in talks with some ‘very big names’, whose identity he is unable to divulge. But, he does reveal that Premier Lingerie is now in a ‘really late stage’ in the negotiations, which are to do with licensing products with the clubs.
“So, you may be seeing a few more clubs having our range both in their shops and online,” he adds.
And, Robinson is determined not to place a limit on his products’ potential market. Though, as the name suggests, the lingerie is targeted towards the Premier League, he has also been speaking to a series of foreign clubs about stocking the range and has identified, and contacted, the top six teams in various leagues around Europe.
For the smaller clubs, who might be unwilling or unable to buy very large quantities, Premier Lingerie offers a more affordable ‘Kick Bag Deal,’ where the teams can buy just ten items of each of the products.
“The more clubs we get on board with this, the less stigma there is attached to it,” Robinson says. “At the end of the day, it is only underwear in club colours. And, we just want to do as many clubs as possible, so the ladies and girls that are there have got something to buy from the club, instead of the pink t-shirts or various other things they come up with. That’s what we want to do – worldwide domination.”
In line with this ambition, the company has a series of new projects in the pipeline for next year. These include launching a new range of swimwear for SS12 and potentially even designing a men’s underwear line.
“What has taken us by surprise,” Robinson elaborates, “is the fact that a lot of guys have been contacting us and saying, ‘where are our boxer shorts?’ So, that is something else that we are looking at now…”
The company may even be expanding beyond the area of football altogether, after it was recently approached by a cricket club to present some pieces. Though only in the very early stages of a potential deal, Premier is currently in the process of sorting out a number of designs for them to look at.
“To be honest, my wife is sick to death of seeing football lingerie,” Robinson jokes. “When we set the company up, we were aiming at the football market, obviously, but we can do anything.”