The saga of Blacks Leisure’s problems seems to have been playing for years, despite the favourable longer-term conditions of healthier lifestyles and outdoor pursuits, boosted by rising disposable incomes being spent on active short breaks.
Are Blacks’ more recent red-ringed performances, though, really down to the shorter term recessionary economic cycle? The evidence, unfortunately for Blacks management, would suggest only partly.
Retail Week Knowledge Bank has recently introduced a new profile for Go Outdoors, which has romped into the UK’s top 200 retailers by almost doubling sales in its latest year to £75m, with operating profit of almost £5m through only 20 shops - there are now 27. Moreover, profiles of Cotswold Outdoors, Snow+Rock, Mountain Warehouse and Trespass will all be added to Retail Week Knowledge Bank in the weeks ahead. They too having been increasing sales faster than average and thereby also forcing themselves into top 200 contention.
The common denominator about these newer kids on the block -mostly children of the 1990s and 2000s, whereas Blacks’ heritage goes back to 1861 - is that they all compete directly with the sector-leading Blacks and its Millets chain, but have prospered in what must be buoyant specialist segments.
The inference is that whatever their combination of format, location, range specialism, marketing or environment, individually and collectively the newcomers must be doing it better.
The Blacks and Millets territories have been neither defended nor evolved effectively over a long period. It is not all down to recession in this latest instance, but failure to counteract newer competition.
Will the Go Outdoors David really bid for the Blacks Leisure Goliath and, if successful, what would it do with it?