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More commercial labels to drive margins at Oki-ni

Premium menswear etailer Oki-ni has pushed the button on plans to attract a raft of more commercial brands to the site to drive margins and sell-throughs.

The etailer, which told Drapers it was seeking private equity backing to fund growth as it repositions, wants to attract a higher proportion of established brands while retaining the niche emerging labels for which it is known.

The number of young brands it stocks will be reduced from 50% to between 20% and 30% of the mix.

Oki-ni, which is owned by brand agency Fourmarketing, stocks a range of niche labels such as British casualwear label Satyenkumar and French footwear brand Ikitabi, alongside well-known names such as Fred Perry and Lee Originals, the denim brand’s premium range.

It has signed established brands including Marc Jacobs, Rag & Bone and Neil Barrett for autumn 10, as well as a number of additional niche labels such as accessories brand Uukat and menswear label Noir Basic.

Last week, creative director John Skelton left the business after three years in the role to pursue freelance projects.

Ben Banks, director of Fourmarketing and partner in Oki-ni, said: “John did an amazing job at the front end of the business raising the profile of Oki-ni, but now we need the metrics to match that.”

He added: “John’s role will be split into two functions which we’ll begin recruiting for soon - one buying-based and another style and editorial-based.”

The etailer is in talks with unspecified potential investors to acquire a 20% to 40% stake in the business, which grew turnover by 150% to £3.2m in 2009.

Banks said: “We expect to secure investment before the end of this year.”

Banks said that he expected sales at the site to increase by 60% to 80% this year but added that margins were “double-digit below where we wanted them to be”.

He added: “Over the past two years the product mix has become progressively specific and there’s a reason that most retailers don’t carry those labels - they are harder to sell. The business hasn’t performed well enough and that’s a by-product of the types of labels we’ve tried to sell. We will continue to stock niche labels but will be more scientific about how we select and retain them.”

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