- By Region
Isabella Oliver, the privately owned online maternity wear specialist beloved of young, wealthy mothers-to-be and Hollywood celebrities, is eyeing international expansion.
The company, founded by a husband and wife team nine years ago, plans to open an office in New York in the first quarter of next year, to drive its US sales further and act as a launchpad for operations in Latin America.
Isabella Oliver, which was started after creative director Baukjen de Swaan Arons, struggled to find fashionable clothes when she was pregnant, already sells about 60 per cent of its maternity wear in the US.
However, chief executive Geoff van Sonsbeeck, her husband, believes it can increase maternity wear sales even further in the US, where it has been worn by celebrities including Angelina Jolie and Reese Witherspoon, and take on market leader Destination Maternity.
“Like Pepsi competing with Coca-Cola, we can be that challenger to them,” said Mr Sonsbeeck.
The company also wants to propel its womenswear range, introduced three years ago and named Baukjen, which will be launched in the US in the spring.
Mr van Sonsbeeck said Isabella Oliver was in a strong position to sell womenswear in the US because of customers’ familiarity with the maternity range.
“For us, the advantage is the maternity customer base already knows us. They trust us,” he said. The US office “reinforces it. Its a natural extension”.
Isabella Oliver, which designs every item in the UK, is also eyeing a move into Brazil and Asia, most likely in the third or fourth quarter of next year.
Mr van Sonsbeeck added that the company was hoping to fund the international expansion from internal resources. However, it could look to raise funds to support its extension. Last year it had a small round of funding from angel investors.
Sales are forecast to rise 33 per cent in the year to September, from £6.3m to £8.3m. Mr van Sonsbeeck said he expected a 50 per cent increase in the year to September 2013.
“This is only the tip of the iceberg of the growth,” he said.