A new concept, a new way of doing business – Intersport UK are aiming to revamp stores and collect valuable data. Neil Venables, Intersport UK Ltd general manager, has been in his role for just over a year, before that he had 20 years’ experience within the Adidas group, working in the commercial sales team as a senior director on both Adidas and Reebok.
He was tasked with driving the next stage of the strategic development for the Intersport UK and Ireland group.
A main thrust of this development are the new Intersport 2.0 concept stores. The fist English version opened in the Jarrold store, Norwich, in July.
Neil said: “It’s going really well, We’ve opened our first England 2.0 store in Norwich. We have just opened another in Arklow, Ireland, bringing the total to five, which, from where we are in the market and across all over Europe, is a really good place to be. Now it’s about how you combine all the results from these stores and share them with the other members. They can then see, from an investment point of view, that it can pay for itself. And that’s where we are now – still in the pilot and analysis phase. It’s a good 19 weeks of planning for each store – so they’re not just going to pop up in a short space of time.”
And it is Intersport’s aim to persuade their members to invest in their stores and, for those that are willing, upgrade using elements of the 2.0 Concept, or to the full Concept store format.
Neil said: “I am not lost on the fact that to create new stores in this current high street climate is a big ask. But Jarrold Intersport can actually be a good test case. It’s a city location, and if the P&L stacks up and justifies itself financially – then it’s a good case study to share with not only the existing membership but entrepreneurs and Intersport International Corporation (IIC) members.”
Collating the data to form information that will be useful for the membership is key and Neil is hoping that they will be able to deliver on this quickly. He added: “I’d like to think we can consolidate at least across the post back-to-school period. We can compare the stores that have opened, trading period/average selling rate/conversion rate/what categories they’re selling and subsequently across those five stores, identify what they can learn from each other and analyse how their results compare to the other Intersport 2.0 Concept stores in Western Europe.
“Then we can see what we are not doing and how and where we can improve. Because it is still a new format, we want to look to make sure its absolutely working to the full.
“But for Jarrold Intersport, interestingly, from a European point of view they want to get a weekly report as they see that as a bit more of a unique city location and, because they are embedded in their local community footprint, they want to see what their sales uplift looks like, particularly in a really tough market like the UK. This market is probably the hardest in Western Europe due to online being mature and consumers well used to internet shopping. We are far ahead of all the other markets on that alone.”
What does have some retailers worried is the prospect of brands becoming retailers and not offering their products in smaller stock quantities.
Nike has already stated this as part of their future strategy – it’s focused on doing business directly with consumers and cutting out the middleman.
Neil said: “We have factored that in but collaboration with brands is at the heart of what our future plan will look like for Intersport UK and Ireland. If you don’t have the support of the brands, especially the major brands, then you won’t have a plan.
“Intersport, as part of the overall IIC and Intersport by market, will still have a relationship with Nike and adidas. Coming from a suppliers’ side, the challenges are what the Brands want in terms of how they’re presented and the assortments that need to be taken. I can see there will come a time when there will a reduced supply to the independents and that this could be an opportunity for Intersport as part of future planning and in collaboration with Nike et al.
“What I understand is that we have to become more verticalised as an operation. We need to take in more central deliveries and we need to agree the assortments with the likes of Nike and adidas. I have tried to be very open and transparent with all the suppliers. I’ve said come in and discuss how we find the right way to work and how we grow.”
And this again brings Intersport back to compiling data and ensuring what is best for the member stores.
Neil added: “And equally, we as a team will audit and go through how we categorise all of the stores; the layout and the merchandising. The intention is that we will achieve substantive data to say they are a specialist in a sport or a multispecialist.
“Once we have that data then we will be able to provide better assortments for the members going forward. And, linked to that, we have to have specialist brands for those specialist members, catering for the specialist consumer.
“That’s also part of the clustering exercise, whether they’re more of a tennis specialist or a cricket specialist etc, making sure we’re offering the right three or four brands to work with them at the best terms and with an aligned marketing campaign. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done but that’s also where we don’t have to be so led by the big brands.”
And after a year in the job, what has Neil taken from it and what is he looking for going forward?
He said: “To understand where we are, understand our market share, understand the opportunity which comes from IIC and 2.0, and all of the support I am looking to get from IIC to build a more relevant and right Intersport for this marketplace. “ I believe there is a market opportunity and that’s what excites me about coming into this role. It’s taken me a year to build a plan. At the end of this year we want to go into 2019 developing the members, the retail experiences and the services we offer.”