Sportswear giants JD Sports and Sports Direct are squaring up for another battle as they compete to buy for-sale young fashion brand Firetrap.
The two retailers are understood to be the frontrunners to buy Firetrap, which observers say is performing less well than in the past. Firetrap has drafted in adviser PricewaterhouseCoopers to explore options, including a sale.
It is the second time in as many months that the sportswear powerhouses have been pitted against each other to acquire a retail brand.
Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley called for the Office of Fair Trading to investigate the outdoor and sports market following Blacks’ acquisition.
Charles Stanley analyst Peter Smedley said Firetrap, which was founded in 1991, was an attractive target for the acquisitive pair of retailers. He said: “Both have a track record of snapping up tired brands at distress prices. They are focused on buying brands to give them differentiated product, thereby protecting them from stiff price competition.”
Both businesses have hit the acquisition trail in the past year. JD Sports snapped up menswear brands Peter Werth and Cecil Gee last year, while Sports Direct bought branded fashion retailer USC and premium chain Cruise.
Sports Direct set up a premium lifestyle division upon the acquisitions. If the retailer is successful in its bid to buy Firetrap, it could be added to that division.
There has been a convergence between JD and Sports Direct’s businesses of late. Sports Direct tested the waters of fashion retail with its USC acquisition. JD has pushed further into performancewear with its Blacks buy.
Smedley believes the pair are likely to make further acquisitions. He said: “Both continue to be offered brands at distressed prices in these difficult times.”
Both JD Sports and Sports Direct declined to comment.