NEW YORK — Flying Tiger is expanding in the U.S. and willing to test various venues.
That’s the message from Soren Friis, head of North America for the $1 billion Danish variety chain. It’s known for low prices, mostly under $10, and an eclectic, quirky collection.
“We are looking at a lot of places for growth and are ready to try different types of locations to really see if the concept can work everywhere,” Friis said, during an interview at Flying Tiger’s Broadway store in the Flatiron District here, which opened in May 2015, becoming the brand’s first U.S. unit.
The second Flying Tiger store opened last April, on Third Avenue between 73rd and 74th Streets, and Friday marks the third opening, at the Gallery at Westbury Plaza in Garden City, N.Y. The 3,852-square-foot space will be the brand’s first shopping-mall unit in the U.S., and the first store outside of Manhattan.
“New York is a key market for us, and it’s important that we continue to expand our footprint by bringing the Flying Tiger experience to new neighborhoods and communities,” said Friis.
A fourth store will open in mid-August, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, at 424 Columbus Avenue, between 80th and 81st Streets.
For now at least, the focus is on expanding in the tristate area with corporate-owned stores as well as joint venture ones. Flying Tiger operates 628 stores around the world — 20 percent are corporate owned; 80 percent are joint ventures. Stores average 2,000 square feet in size.
With the joint ventures, “it’s a true 50-50 partnership. We split the profits,” Friis said. “Each store has the same look and branding, but store managers tweak the merchandising as they think is best for their trading area.”
He said the company is ready to test U.S. malls, high streets, strip centers and transportation hubs. Flying Tiger is also considering outlet centers, though that seems like a stretch, considering the company never discounts. “We offer great value every day. We keep the pricing simple,” Friis said, though he noted the company is testing an outlet site in Killarney Outlet Centre, in Ireland.
In any case, there could be a good reception from landlords, considering several mature specialty chains in the U.S. are closing doors. With shopper traffic on the decline throughout the country, consumers are hungry for new retail concepts, and those chains offering the best values are performing the best.
Friis believes U.S. consumers “really seem to appreciate the Flying Tiger concept. Most people, when they look at the products, they smile and play around with them.”
Every six to eight weeks new products flow into the stores, changing between 12 to 15 percent of the overall assortment. About 10 percent of the assortment is currently themed around a flamingo motif, seen on cups, blankets, jars, and other items. Glass jars with flamingo motifs are among the current bestsellers, as are coasters, inflatable water mattresses with beer-cup holders and Danish butter cookies. The array also includes fashion accessories, espadrilles, neck pillows, candles, shower curtains and other home items, as well as gadgets, toys, games, office essentials, DIY, craft, party, tabletop and hobby supplies.
Stores are designed with a single aisle — heavily merchandised with displays on both sides — that wends its way through the space, encouraging browsing and a sense of discovery.
Founded in Copenhagen in 1995, Flying Tiger is owned by the Danish company Zebra A/S. In America, the company operates under the name Flying Tiger Copenhagen to avoid trademark issues. A Danish private equity firm, EQT, owns a 70 percent stake in Tiger, while the founder, Lennart Lajboschitz, retains the minority.