Sports Direct this week proved itself once again to be a retail gold medallist.

Sports Direct this week proved itself once again to be a retail gold medallist.

Sales and profits at the business accelerated at Mo Farah-like speed over the summer, while others never left the starting line.

While Sports Direct dominates its specialist market, its success, and that of maverick founder Mike Ashley, holds lessons for retailers more widely.

In the first place it’s a great entrepreneurial story that shows it’s possible to build a powerhouse business from scratch. For many years Ashley remained a sole trader, and retained that status long after the retailer had become bigger than some quoted companies.

And he successfully developed a non-food business at the very time that the giant grocers were parking their tanks on the lawns of general retailers.

Unlike some entrepreneurs who find it hard to let go, Ashley has also established a strong team around him. His brashness is balanced by the measured style of chief executive Dave Forsey. Similarly, while Sports Direct may not spring to mind when it comes to rewarding shopfloor staff, it in fact has one of the most lucrative incentive schemes in retail.

While Sports Direct has a pile it high, sell it cheap reputation, and its stores sometimes have a hint of the jumble sale about them, it’s a sophisticated business that doesn’t rest on its laurels.

In the UK, a fledgling premium fashion business is being established, but it’s the international operations, and online in particular, that present the great opportunity now.

On past and present form, Sports Direct looks likely to remain one of the foremost members of retail’s Team GB.

Celebrating retail success

Sports Direct is one of many retail success stories, and we will be celebrating the best at next year’s Oracle Retail Week Awards, for which entries are now open.

The last year has brought high-profile store openings, multichannel innovation, international ventures and impressive commercial success from a range of retailers.

Retail remains one of the UK’s flagship industries, a key contributor to the economy and a massive employer, and winning an award is the ultimate accolade.

The awards will be held on March 14 and we look forward to receiving your entries.