Luxury Italian furniture retailer Natuzzi wants to ramp up its number of UK stores by more than tenfold, by building a network of franchises in cities outside London.

The three-store retailer wants to open between 25 and 30 franchise shops outside the capital in the next three to five years, alongside plans to open 10 company-owned stores in London by 2010.

Natuzzi UK managing director Nick Moore said that its first franchise store will open in Cardiff in the next few weeks. “It is breaking new ground for us,” he said.

The retailer also plans to open a store at the Trafford Centre in Manchester towards the end of next month. The shop will be run by Natuzzi initially, with a view to it being franchised at a later date.

Moore said Natuzzi is seeking 6,000 sq ft to 8,000 sq ft premises, “ideally highly visible, with double-length glass frontages – not triple – a high street, but not off-pitch and ideally located near like-minded retailers”.

He added that Natuzzi has successfully used a franchise model in many of its overseas markets, including Holland, Greece, Portugal and France.

“In London, we need a critical mass of stores to pay for our central office and to run our indirect operations,” Moore said. “The ideal franchise partner is someone who understands Natuzzi or high-end retail, rather than mid-market retail.”

Natuzzi owns three standalone outlets in the Southeast in Croydon, Thurrock and its recently opened store on London’s Finchley Road. It also has 15 concessions at chains including House of Fraser and Selfridges, and 33 galleries at independent furniture retailers.

Moore said that Natuzzi’s UK operations had delivered low double digit like-for-like sales growth in the year to date.

“We would like to think that we are at the high end of the market and that we are less susceptible to interest rate rises and talk of recession than other retailers,” he said.