Effective design could be salvation for sports retail

Sports fashion retailers are facing a saturated market, and need to use design more effectively to differentiate their offers if they are to maintain credibility with fashionable young customers, according to a new report.

The latest retail report from research consultancy Verdict claims under-performing chains have chosen the wrong balance between a wide product selection and their own personality.

JD Sports, which has disappointed City analysts with its performance, is given as an example. The chain introduced store designs by Judge Gill in 1995 and 1996 in Liverpool and Manchester.

Even chains which have performed well, such as Blacks Leisure Group subsidiary First Sport, lack “a distinctive USP [unique selling point]”, the survey Verdict On Sports Fashion reads.

“Sports fashion retailers will have to grasp the nettle of developing retail brand identities by honing their USPs and adopting differentiation strategies,” according to the report. It describes young sports consumers as “notoriously fickle”.

Fitch director Neil Whitehead, who has been involved in developing several fashion retailing concepts, such as Bankrupt Clothing Company, says the increase in outdoor clothing brands such as Jeep and Camel is further complicating the issue. “The retailer will have to work even harder… and know exactly where its area of expertise is,” he says.

The report predicts fewer specialists in sports fashion, and that they will be multiple groups.

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