Athlete's Foot plans marathon assault on UK market

The world's biggest franchised athletic footwear retailer, Athlete's Foot, is to take a step into the UK and open its first store in this country this autumn.

US-based Athlete's Foot has more than 750 stores in 45 countries and intends to add the UK to the list, with at least 20 specialist shops.

The footwear giant is a privately-owned subsidiary of French retail conglomerate Groupe Rallye.

The retailer has approached former Famous Brunswick Warehouse managing director Mark Blackburn to lead the UK assault and is understood to have signed a letter of intent with him to open both company-owned shops and franchised outlets.

It is likely that a pilot store will be launched in the Northwest of England and additional shops will follow.

But Retail Knowledge Bank research director Robert Clark was unsure how well the fascia would work in Britain. 'Theoretically, there is a gap in the market, but the UK will need some convincing,' he said. 'The British tend to view footwear as a commodity rather than a specialist purchase.'

Athlete's Foot's closest competitor in the UK is probably Sweatshop, which has 25 stores.