JD Sports Fashion’s stellar results may have come as a surprise to many, especially those who have been following the fortunes of its sportswear competitors, JJB Sports and Sports Direct.
JJB and Sports Direct have both struggled in recent months, and JJB’s update tomorrow is not expected to provide much cheer in the City.
But fortunately for JD, it has long since bolted the traditional sportswear stable to become a very different creature.
With the change of name at JD’s last AGM to JD Sports Fashion, the management showed where it was positioning the retailer.
They see the business sitting alongside the likes of Republic and River Island rather than traditional sportswear retailers.
JD Sports boss Barry Bown believes the more fashion-forward products such as an extended denim range from own-brand McKenzie and brands such as Fred Perry and Lacoste have given it the edge over the competition.
Exclusive products. – which account for 60 per cent of the footwear range – also pull in the shoppers.
The numbers certainly seem to back this up, with pre-tax profits rocketing 71 per cent in the 26 weeks to August 2.
JD has found its niche as a premier brand.
Aside from the must-have ranges, evidence of JD’s acceptance in the lucrative teenage market is seen from the fact that the retailer has a huge problem with shoplifters. And they aren’t stealing trainers or track suits – they are after the gold JD Exclusive tags on the products.
While many retailers are cutting back on marketing and advertising spend in the tough climate, JD believes marketing is key for its audience.
The retailer uses press, print and outdoor campaigns to create a buzz about the launch of a new, exclusive product.
But that’s not all: it knows what its audience likes and will, for example, get actively involved in things like music. Next month, JD will sponsor young indie band The Paddingtons’ new album.
There is a bit of luck on the side of JD too. Its audience doesn’t have the constraints of families or mortgages so they will still spend, even in the tough climate.
The pressure to have the latest cool brand or item shows no sign of abating either.
Bown points out that while there is always a queue of people outside the Apple store when the latest gadget is released, there will always be customers for JD.
JD’s management should be applauded for creating a niche, that is protected even in a tough trading climate.
Whether or not there is a bit of luck involved, JD’s results provide some welcome relief among all the doom and gloom.