JD Sports is drawing up international expansion plans amid speculation that it will kick-start them by acquiring French sports retailer Chausport.
Sources told Retail Week that JD Sports was in talks to buy 81-store Chausport, giving JD an overseas presence for the first time. JD executive chairman Peter Cowgill would not comment on any potential deal but confirmed that the retailer is interested in venturing abroad.
“We have been looking at international economies for some time,” he said. However, he added that economic problems internationally would have to be taken into account before any decision was made.
Cowgill said JD would consider both acquisitions and taking the UK business overseas.
JD’s fashion-led strategy has made it a front-runner among its sporting rivals. Group profit before tax and exceptional items rose 24 pern cent to £53.6m in the year to January 31, when sales climbed 13.3 per cent to £670.9m across its 440 stores. Like-for-like sales rose 3.9 per cent.
In 2007, Chausport had a turnover exceeding E51m (£45.5m). It mainly sells footwear, but also offers lifestyle clothing and accessories. The retailer stocks mens- and womenswear, as well as products for children and babies. Brands carried include Nike, Puma and Converse.
Edward Whitefield, chairman of consultancy MHE Retail, said that a tie-up with Chausport would make sense. “JD has a lot of brand expertise and has found a business it can convert that needs modernising,” he said. “Chausport needs an injection of professional retail brand management.”
It is understood that JD has no imminent plans to snap up UK rival JJB Sports, despite media speculation. Industry sources believe that any play for JJB would spark a war between JD and Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley, and be likely to trigger a regulatory investigation.
JJB executive director Peter Williams said the JJB board will continue to act “in the best interests of the shareholders”.
Concerns are growing that JJB’s next hurdle will be its stock situation. The retailer had credit insurance pulled last year, which caused supply problems with brands.
Williams admitted: “This is an issue for this season but not for next season. Because of the stop-go with the banks, it has been hard to get continuous supply. We are in a far better position now than we were in December.”
JJB will issue preliminary results later this month and outline its future strategy.