Fitness and Training are going to be bang on trend for 2017.
That’s the view of Intersport UK’s head of marketing, Susan Herbert, who thinks the sector is going to be huge in the months ahead.
The running market is also on the up but it is the growth in the desire for a healthy lifestyle and well-being that is creating a whole new category.
Susan said: “Running is still growing as a category and our association with Parkrun is helping us massively as a group. There are more people running and we are selling lots of running kit.
“The biggest trend, though, is in fitness and training. We are seeing that as a full category growing into its own right. Historically you train for a specific sport, football, rugby and hockey, for example.
“But, actually, training for training’s sake is a massive growth area and it’s becoming a stronger field in terms of products that are available for clothing and footwear.
“It is sitting in a new category and we call it training and fitness because of the gender divide. Men tend to call it training and for women it tends to be fitness. “It’s showing huge growth for us and real potential.”
Intersport retailers already have strong links within their local sporting communities. But now they are attempting to cash in on this new trend and attract more customers in store by holding fitness evenings, such as yoga sessions or having a brand come in to run a crossfit class.
Susan added: “A lot of retailers in our group are focusing much more on Fitness and Training as a full category and we are really seeing a growth spurt in how it is presented in store and the people they are attracting in as well.
“It is definitely getting stronger and stronger - that whole fitness lifestyle, well-being and outlook on life is very on trend.”
Intersport are looking to make the most of digital innovations over the coming year.
They have invested in a new website (www.intersport.co.uk) and are looking to overhaul their internal systems.
All they have planned is aimed at streamlining and making the business more efficient to make life easier for retailers and give customers an improved service.
Susan said: “We gave the website a soft launch at the end of June last year, just to get up and running.
“It’s developed such a lot in that time and one of the things we have learned as a business is the whole Ecom piece grows every day, in terms of knowledge and changes that you can make.
“It is so adaptable, it is never a finished project, it’s always moving, changing and growing.
“From a selling perspective it’s doing well. It’s starting to grow and it has been kept very focussed on categories.
“We have gone with our key categories which are running, fitness and football. We have also added rugby because it’s a big year for rugby with the Lions tour of New Zealand.”
But with a presence online are Intersport in direct competition with their own retailers? Will they be taking trade away from their stores?
Susan is adamant that this isn’t the case and that the new website will offer new opportunities and sales.
She said: “We see the website as an expansion of the stores really.
“We offer click and collect to store, which big and small members alike are a part of. DW Group, who have their own website and click and collect, also take click and collect from Intersport.co.uk. So it’s very much seen as another customer base that’s coming into store. Also, for some of the smaller retailers it’s offering them almost a shelf extension at this point.
“Retailers can say ‘we don’t stock football but we’ve got it on our website so you can order it and have it delivered here’.
“So it’s giving them another opportunity to sell slightly different or a wider range.
“Over time we want to expand that into a proper shelf extension with Ipads in store.”
And, with that in mind, Intersport are aiming to place themselves firmly in the digital marketplace as they update their internal systems over the next 12 to 18 months. It will include internal ordering platforms, EPOS and connectivity between various systems
Susan said: “It will give us a much more streamlined approach so when we bring in a proper shelf extension piece we will have all the systems set up ready to use.
“Everything will link through so that you can actually buy in store through online in the future.
“So as a group, globally, when we are doing internal buys for a season we have a central collective so that we are only processing the information once, catching all the data.
“So the data from the brands gets input centrally and filtered out to all the countries, then from each country out to all the retailers.
“That way there is no-one having to do lots of entering of products into systems. It’s already sitting there ready for them just to place orders effectively.
“It will gives a streamlined view and make us more efficient as a group right across Europe, not just here, and gives us a great strength.
“It’s great for the brands as well because they can work with us in a much more efficient way too. It benefits everyone, at every stage, right down to the consumer experience at the end.”