Asda's fast-growing value fashion business, George, is preparing for a major push into sportswear in the New Year, which may hit specialist rivals.
George, run by managing director Andy Bond, will introduce products from sports brand Umbro into 230 Asda stores next month. A cascade of big-name brands, including Nike, will follow within months.
Asda has tested Umbro and Nike sportswear, sourced on the grey market, in 38 stores and is eager to bolster its offer.
George has also developed its own sportswear range, George Performance, which will be launched in January. The offer includes items such as T-shirts, shorts and tracksuits made from a hi-tech cooling fabric. Skiwear, which has been tested in some stores, will also be rolled out.
A spokeswoman said: 'Over the last couple of years, the percentage of Asda shoppers buying from George has increased from 9 per cent to 30 per cent. We want to continue to improve this by finding new areas of the market that our customers want, such as sportswear.'
Retail Knowledge Bank research director Robert Clark said: 'Asda's move is going to have an impact on the lower end of the marketplace, such as Sports Soccer and All:sports, but JJB and JD will also be exposed.'
Like-for-like sales at George have increased by 30 per cent year-on-year and annual sales are poised to break the£1 billion barrier. George has dethroned Marks and Spencer as the leading childrenswear retailer and is now the number two clothing retailer, by volume, behind M&S.