International News - Sport channel kick off for Karstadt

German mail order and department store group KarstadtQuelle is flexing its muscles in sports, with the acquisition of television company DSF and Web site Sport1.

The venture, with investor Dr Hans-Dieter Cleven, is part of the retail giant's multi-channel strategy and should enable it to make further inroads into the sports goods market.

'The presence of sport in the media is pushing sports retailing,' said KarstadtQuelle New Media chairman Peter Gerard. 'DSF and Sport1 are outstanding communications platforms that can be expanded with consortium members.

'Participation in DSF/Sport1 is a strategically important and economically significant investment,' he added. 'We are emphasising our commitment to the sports growth market and the medium of television.'

KarstadtQuelle has already signed an exclusive deal with international football governing body FIFA to handle the official merchandise for World Cup Germany 2006.

More than 300 outlets in its department stores and sport shops are planned.

The retailer will also operate outlets in all 12 World Cup stadiums during the tournament.

In a tough German market, executive board chairman Wolfgang Urban said last year had been a difficult one.

Sales and earnings fell below the previous year's levels. Sales dipped 1.6 per cent to EUR15.8 billion (£10.98 billion), while earnings before tax and amortisation fell from EUR382 million (£265.6 million) in 2001 to EUR294 million (£204.4 million).