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Passion for shoes develops into new Cambridge venture Flans Kicks

Flans Kicks is a new shop specialising in trainers that has recently opened in the heart of Cambridge – and its owner has had an interesting life and career.

Simon Flanagan in his new shop Flans Kicks on Green Street, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Simon Flanagan in his new shop Flans Kicks on Green Street, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Simon Flanagan is an Army veteran who has always had a passion for sneakers and has now opened up his own store located at Green Street in the city centre.

“I joined the Forces when I was 16 years old, back in 2004,” reveals Simon, who is originally from Birmingham. “I served six years in the Queen’s Royal Hussars as a tank soldier – I did a tour of Iraq – and after leaving the Army I struggled to adjust to civilian life.

“I had a lot of different jobs until I left the UK in 2011 and moved out to Spain. When I was in Spain I worked as a ticket seller for event companies and I then met my now fiancée. We then moved back from Spain about six or seven years ago.”

Relocating to Ely, where Simon’s partner is from, he started work as a sales rep for her mother’s hair and beauty company. “After a year and a bit of doing that, I then went to college to study barbering to help me with that job, and then we went into lockdown,” he recalls.

“After the first lockdown, an opportunity arose for me to open a barber’s shop, so I did that and then we got locked down again.”

Simon was subsequently given a grant by the government as part of an initiative to help kick-start the high street after restrictions had eased. “Because I was a sales manager at the hair and beauty wholesalers at this point, I looked at that money and what I could do to create a business within a business,” he says.

“I’ve always been passionate about my shoes so I spent £2,000 on shoes, sold those, reinvested the money, and then I started doing shows with a company called Crepe City.”

Simon had his first success at a Crepe City sneaker trade show in 2021, which gave him the courage to go full-time and start buying and selling more shoes. “There’ll be 50, 60 people like myself taking all their stock to an events centre,” he explains. “We do Boxpark in London, at Wembley.”

Simon notes that he’s been interested shoes, specifically trainers, since he was a child but growing up it was not always possible, due to financial constraints, to get the pairs he always wanted. “As I’ve got a little bit older and this business has blossomed, I’m now able to source the shoes that I missed out on when I was a kid,” he says.

Simon Flanagan in his new shop Flans Kicks on Green Street, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
Simon Flanagan in his new shop Flans Kicks on Green Street, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

The proud owner of this new shop was recently photographed with a pair of trainers that retail at £3,000. “They are the Doernbecher 6,” he explains. “The story behind the Doernbecher series is they give children with terminal cancer a chance to design a shoe so that when they’re no longer here, their memory lives on with that shoe.

“That [pair] was released in 2009 and was very limited – and it was USA release only – so to find that shoe in brand new condition in the UK is nigh-on impossible.”

Before he started doing the Crepe City trade shows, Simon began his new venture by reselling trainers in his barber shop. “We were selling 50 pairs of shoes and taking £6-7,000 in a day,” he says, “so that showed me that this could really go somewhere.

“Then I made the decision to speak to one of my very good friends, from Birmingham, and see if he wanted to invest in the company, for us to take it to the next level and get a shop front in an affluent city. Cambridge is the nearest city to us and there was nothing here doing that sort of thing so we thought we’d take the chance and delve in.”

So it was always the intention to open the business in Cambridge, rather than Ely? “There’s already a similar sort of thing in Ely,” says Simon, who is already looking to open another branch in Oxford and then hopes to open one in his hometown of Solihull, on the outskirts of Birmingham.

“There’s a place that sells second-hand shoes – similar to what we do but second-hand, and I think with the size we needed a bigger city.”

Flans Kicks, which specialises in Nike trainers, opened on August 5 and Simon says it’s been going “really well” so far, adding: “The first month we turned over 123 pairs. We were aiming for two pairs a day but we’ve surpassed that and we’re hitting six to eight pairs a day on average.”

[Read more: Cambridge footwear firm grabs another retail award]

Simon has a one-year-old son who already has quite a large collection of trainers – courtesy of Dad. “He has indeed... When I got the news that I was having a little boy, I sort of went crazy and tried to match him as many pairs as I could with the pairs I’ve got in my collection. I reckon he’s got between 40 and 100 pairs now!”

Simon concludes: “We’re a small independent business and we take pride in our customer service – our customer service won’t be topped anywhere that you go in this sort of industry.”

For more information, visit flanskicks.co.uk.

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