THE couple who opened the first branch of Danish homeware chain Tiger in the UK have sold their stake in the business, making millions of pounds.
Philip Bier opened the first Tiger shop in Basingstoke, Hampshire after a chance meeting with the founder, Lennart Lajboschitz, in Copenhagen in 2003.
Danish born Philip, 52, already lived in North London with his British wife Emma, 51, after moving to the UK in the eighties to study photography.
In 2005, the couple took out a second mortgage and Philip abandoned his career as an architectural photographer. Emma has been working as a designer for John Lewis in its Waitrose stores.
Their first store was located in Basingstoke, Hampshire in 2005 but that wasn’t always the plan.
He told The Sun Online: “Initially, the first location was in Crouch End but we tried and it didn’t work. It became a Tesco instead.
“It was tough to find a retail space at the time. In 2005, the economy was booming, retail was booming.
“The [Basingstoke] location was the best at the time. The second shop opened a year later in October 2006 and it was in Hammersmith and it was an incredible success.
“It was the store that gave us the confidence to grow from there, although expansion was conservative.”
The couple have now decided to sell their 50 per cent stake for an undisclosed amount, although, the company confirmed that it was for millions of pounds.
Both have stepped down from their roles in the company. Philip was managing director and Emma was head of design and marketing.
The chain has been branded a “posh poundland” for its affordable and quirky homeware products, including napkins, candles and spices.
The layout is similar to Ikea but on a much smaller scale, with items piled high and aisles full of excited shoppers.
Prices are very low – the bulk of items costs £1 to £3 and new items for January include an avocado masher to make guacamole (£1), diary with pom pom bookmark ribbon (£3) and a “calorie cutter” spiralizer (£2).
The shop has earned cool points too. In September it launched a range of stationery and products designed by artist David Shrigley.
Last year, Tiger rebranded itself, changing its name to Flying Tiger Copenhagen.
It now has around 90 shops in the UK. Around the world there are more than 600 shops in 28 countries.
In 2015, the company paid a £2million dividend to its owners after recording sales of £41million and profits of £7million.
So what makes the shop such a success with shoppers? Philip believes that its because it bucks the usual retail conventions.
He said: “The core of the business is to challenge the concept that low prices equals poor quality or an unpleasant experience.
“It challenges the conventions of retail and gives customers a better experience.”
The most consistently best-selling items are an LP frame that costs £5 and a £3 head massager, according to Philip.The couple now plan to take three months off, to work out what their next professional step will be.
Philip added: “In 2004, I told the founder that after 10 years I would be out. Last December was 10 years and we gave our notice.
“I’ve far exceeded my personal expectations. We’ve done what we wanted and now it’s time to do something else.”