Lingerie and stationery is not an obvious business combination, but it is one that works for Theo Paphitis of Chancerealm. Serial entrepreneur Paphtitis, who is also chairman of Millwall FC and the lingerie chain La Senza, took a gamble when he founded his group after buying ailing high street stationer Ryman and ladies underwear retailer Contessa from the receiver. “Both companies were viable. But they were part of groups that had either run them down or tried to over-expand,” says marketing director Malcolm Cooke. Both Ryman and Contessa have now been turned around, a feat Cooke attributes to economies of scale and tight cost control. The 93 Ryman stores, which make up around two-thirds of Middlesex-based Chancerealm’s turnover, together with 79 Contessa outlets have helped drive up profits 30% a year, from £1.8m in 1997 to £4m in 2000, when the company had sales of £58.5m.
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