This week marks the UK debut of ÏD Kids and Retail Week had an exclusive first look at the store, next to ailing Mothercare in Southside shopping centre, London.
Philip Bier, who founded Scandi high street chain Tiger, has brought the French children’s clothing and toy firm to the UK through a new outfit he runs with his siblings, Bier Brothers.
The first shop, measuring around 2,000 sq ft, holds in the region of 17,000 SKUs with a 50/50 mix of clothing and toys.
It is brightly coloured with space for children to play with the toys, which are educationally geared and “screen-free”.
Speaking to Retail Week before the store opens, Bier says: “I’ve spoken to other parents and asked where is good to buy toys, and they say nowhere. The experience is horrible.”
He hopes ÏD Kids will rectify that. “The whole market needs updating,” he says.
The popular European business owns eight brands, including childrenswear clothing brand Okaïdi and educational toy range Oxybul.
Its vertically integrated business model means its products are unique, which partially shields the retailer, Bier says, from the threat of online players like Amazon and helps it keep a handle on costs.
It’s early days for ÏD Kids’ UK mission; it is yet to establish an online presence in the country and will introduce the ÏD Kids loyalty scheme at a later date, too.
But Bier has big plans for the chain, and hopes for at least 50 stores.
He is searching for property opportunities in a range of locations, including retail parks, as the company’s stores in Europe can be as large as 20,000 sq ft and hold a much broader range.
“We can have stores nationwide,” he adds, ”as it is a mass-market offer.”
Should Mothercare be rattled?
But Bier is confident that ÏD Kids can conquer and will competently take the fight to the UK’s long-established children’s brands, including Mothercare and what he terms “add-ons” and boutiques.
Then, on the nearby Northcote Road, ÏD Kids will face pressure from boutique stores.
But, he says, the retailer has the benefit of being less expensive than boutiques and more of a specialist than the “add-ons”.
In line with his aspirations to open a number of much bigger ÏD Kids stores, Bier says that if the Mothercare unit next door were to close he would be keen to take it on and double his store’s size.
Commenting on the challenges facing Mothercare, he says: “Relevant is the most important word in retail. The internet crept up and then exploded, but the main players have stood still. How has Mothercare renewed its concept?
“Some retailers have taken the customer for granted and that’s the root of all evil.”
He also believes there to be an issue with the Mothercare name, despite it being very well-known.
“As a father who was very involved in raising my children, the name is not very welcoming. That issue should have been dealt with 30 years ago.”
More brands to follow
Through Bier Brothers, the retail lifer aims to bring multiple new brands to the British high street by becoming the preferred partner for foreign retailers wanting to enter the UK.
He says the business has already taken ”early enquiries” from a cosmetics company, a homewares firm and a jewellery firm, and is open to a broad range of opportunities.
“There’s high demand to get into the UK market,” he says, hopeful that his “good history with landlords” will prove an attractive asset for potential new franchise partners.