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Fly53 to swoop onto the high street with 26-store assault

Streetwear brand Fly53 is to open 26 standalone stores over the next three years as part of its plans to expand rapidly into retail.

The brand has 290 UK stockists and seven concessions in department store House of Fraser, as well as a transactional website, but ithas no bricks-and-mortar presence of its own.

It will open 10 standalones stores in the next 12 months, targeting cities with large student populations, such as Leeds, Bristol, Man­chester and Cardiff. It aims to secure sites on high streets dominated by multiples where, it claims, fewer indies can afford a site and it is less likely to cannibalise its stockists’ sales.

Fly53 founder and creative director Will Rigg said: “We have to raise visibility and a shop is the biggest advert you can get. Our wholesale business is what Fly53 was built on, so we are not going to upset that. We are going to choose our sites very carefully.”

Stockists had a mixed reaction to the news. Young fashion mini-chain Ark, which operates in the North and Midlands, and contemporary mini-chain Joy, headquartered in London, both sell Fly53 in the brand’s priority cities. Both said the retail roll-out could boost sales.

But Michael Francis, buyer at streetwear indie Symbolife in Bristol, said he would probably drop Fly53 as a result. He said: “We’re not happy. We’ve already seen our online sales [of the brand] vanish since Fly53 launched its website.”

Fly53 is understood to turn over about £15m a year and has seen sales grow 30% for autumn 10, compared with autumn 09. The retail roll-out follows two injections of funding by venture capital firm Key Capital Partners, totalling £4.6m. The first was in March 2009, when the firm invested £3.6m in return for a 35% stake. The remainder was granted in June.

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