King of trainers unruffled by competition

JD SPORTSBritish sports lifestyle retailer, JD Sports, is confident it’s going to disrupt the status quo when it opens the doors to its first Aussie flagship at GPT’s Melbourne Central on 27 April.

As revealed by IRW earlier this year, the UK-based retailer will now extend its presence across 11 countries, with the 540sqm store offering a range of global brands including Nike, Adidas, Lacoste, Reebok, Ellesse, The North Face and Puma.

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Hilton Seskin, head of JD Australia, said achieving differentiation amid the sporting retail landscape would not be a major hurdle, when asked if the likes of Super Retail Group-owned Rebel and Amart Sports plus RCG’s stable of footwear brands were already crowding the sporting market.

“The reason that JD has been so successful globally, and the reason for entering the Australian market is that there is no real competitor to what we will offer,” Seskin told IRW.

“First of all, the retailers that you have mentioned are either performance or lifestyle – JD is both.

“We access product at the highest tier, cross category, which has never been offered to the Australian consumer before.”

Seskin was bullish about any concern over similarities between JD and Rebel’s brand and store merchandising, pointing towards JD’s focus on providing retail theatre in tandem with its global brand partnerships at Nike and Adidas.

“JD is a global brand and all aspects of the corporate identity are used worldwide,” he said.

“Our positioning and point of difference begins at a product level, it’s the nucleus of the JD international strategy, and this is no different for Australia.”

JD’s store expansion will be “sustainable within the current retail climate” but we can expect to see the UK brand in key catchments in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland by the end of this year, with JD intending to continue expanding over the “foreseeable future”.

JD SPORTSEyes on the customer

In August 2016, JD Sports acquired majority control of Seskin’s Next Athleisure, which currently has 32 stores trading as Glue Store, as well as Trend Imports, a wholesale distribution business, and the acquisition was with good reason. It’s given the UK-based retailer an inside look at the local landscape, with an integral part of its strategy also including a dedicated localised e-commerce offering that will launch in conjunction with the first store in Melbourne Central.

JD holds nearly 19 per cent of the £7.7 billion industry in the UK behind Sports Direct International which holds 27 per cent. It’s a competitive marketplace that also includes major European based sporting retailers like French retailer Decathlon.

“JD will leverage global brand partnerships that have helped form such a strong consumer offering,” said Seskin.

“We’re working closely with local teams to ensure that the global assortment is available to the Australian consumer as JD is a global business.

Seskin also said JD is “very specific in who we target” and that “you can’t be everything to all people”.

“We focus on our consumer set and communicate very specifically,” he said. “This varies slightly between markets and that will be the same in Australia. That’s why our local team is so important to the success of JD in Australia.”

Commenting on the state of sports retail country in the country and what the opportunities were, Seskin said there is no-one currently in the market offering both performance and lifestyle apparel across men’s, women’s and children’s categories the way that JD plans.

“The opportunity is offering the consumer a one-stop shop to purchase a range of products in a highly immersive retail environment.

“We operate a seamless multi-channel customer journey through multiple digital executions throughout our stores and online and have the ability to create exclusive product ranges across footwear and apparel specifically for the JD consumer.”

Dubbed the ‘Undisputed King of Trainers’ back in the UK, JD has used the launch of limited edition styles, global launches and JD exclusives from major brand relationships to make inroads into the UK sports market.

The time is now

According to Bettina Kurnik, senior research analyst at Euromonitor, the Australian sportswear market is ready for a new entrant, and local consumers will certainly welcome more intensified competition within the category. However, it remains to be seen whether JD will offer enough in terms of range differentiation to compete with the long-term market leader, Rebel Sport.

“It depends largely on the brands on offer, as loyalty to local brands is strong in Australia,” she told IRW.

“This is particularly apparent within athleisure, and Australia is generally considered a frontrunner in the development of the category. Brands such as Lorna Jane, 2XU and The Upside position themselves as active lifestyle brands, rather than just activewear companies, and have seen a successful uptake as a result.”

According to Euromonitor data, sports-inspired apparel represents almost 40 per cent of the market for sportswear in Australia, and the category is experiencing the strongest growth over the past five years, at an average annual rate of five per cent.

“With competition within sportswear coming from discount department stores, apparel specialist retailers and online, there is a major market opportunity for sports goods stores that combine both apparel and equipment in Australia, particularly those with a strong private label offering,” said Kurnik.

“However, it’s not a given, particularly if the company’s primary markets are international and it doesn’t specifically cater its range for an Australian audience in terms of seasonality and sporting preferences.”



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