The battle to save JJB has taken its toll on boss Keith Jones but who will be the next retailer to enter the fray?
It’s certainly a big task to shoulder. The beleaguered retailer looks set to make losses in the region of £50m this year and despite two CVAs and multiple rights issues, JJB Sports is still haemorrhaging cash.
The retailer, which just three months ago received a £20m boost from US giant Dick’s Sporting Goods which took a stake in the business, has already issued a plea for accelerated funding.
Dick’s backing, alongside the appointment of chairman-designate Bob Corliss, a veteran of the US sportswear market, has led to speculation that an American, hand-picked by Dick’s, may be next in line for the top job.
However, bringing in someone who is not well versed with the UK sports market to take on formidable opponent Sports Direct could be a risky move.
Jones always insisted there was a distinct place for JJB in the sportswear market in between the more fashion-led JD and bargain-hunters’ paradise Sports Direct. He maintained that JJB’s shops can be a specialist destination for people serious about sport.
However, Mike Ashley’s empire has been encroaching into JJB’s specialist turf for a long time now. Its running department She Runs He Runs and football footwear section The Boot Room have an offer that would win the custom of athletes and its heavily promoted website is widening its product range even further.
Jones must be applauded for managing to retain the support of JJB’s shareholders over a rocky two-and-a-half years in charge and getting the refinancings signed off. However the retailer is still not winning enough custom and only a small number of shops have been made over to a new format that has been generating mopre sales and is seen as critical to long-term success.
JJB’s new boss will have to create a consistent proposition to woo shoppers back, and away from Sports Direct and its sharp price points. And that’s gainst a backdrop of dwindling cash and, what must be, increasingly impatient shareholders - an Olympian task if ever there was one.
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