Kicking off with the Euros this week, followed by Wimbledon and the Paris Olympics taking us to the end of July, this summer is packed with action for fans and retailers alike. Retail Week sat down with Sports Direct managing director Ger Wright to find out how one of the nation’s biggest sportswear retailers will be making the most of it

Tell us about yourself and your role at Sports Direct.

Ger Wright, Sports Direct

Sports Direct managing director Ger Wright: “Our vision is to be the destination for sports and fitness”

“I joined Frasers Group two years ago and, prior to that, I spent 15 years at Nike. So sport has been a common thread going through my career for the last 20 years, from one sports business to another. 

“Sports Direct has been working on its mission, vision and positioning. Our mission for the business is to serve the athletes with the best kit money can buy.

“We’re very proud as a retailer that you can go in and buy your Adidas Predator £300 football boots, but if you want to spend £7 on Sondico shinguards, you can do that as well. We can really serve the consumer from one end of the spectrum to the other.

“Our vision is to be the destination for sports and fitness. So we’ve got a very bold goal to become the number one sporting goods retailer in EMEA and I think I’ve done a lot of work with the team in the last two years around really building out our partnerships to help get us to that goal.

”Our positioning is: sports starts here. And it’s become very synonymous with the consumer we serve at Sports Direct right now.”

It’s a big year for sport. What have you got planned?

“This is a very exciting year and a very exciting summer of sport. We’re obviously going to kick off with the Euros. Football is our key category – we’re the number one retailer for the big brands across Europe and we’ve had that position for many years – but we’ve really developed it in the last three to four years.

“Our biggest brand partners are Nike, Adidas and Puma. So those three brands drive the majority share of our business and we not only get access to the best products, but also access to the best talent.

“You’ll probably know from some of our previous campaigns that you get to see some great, familiar, top-end athletes and that will be no different for this one.

 

“So you’re going to see the legendary Ian Wright, Connor Gallagher, Jordan Pickford, William Saliba and Rúben Dias among many more. For products, at the top end, you’ll see the F50 boot from Adidas, the Mercurial from Nike, the Future 7 from Puma and, of course, you’ll see your Euro kits. 

“After that, we have Wimbledon and we have a partnership with Slazenger, our own brand within the business, and that’s one of our longest-standing partnerships.

“Then, just over a month after that, we’ll go into the Olympics. We’re very excited about the Olympics, especially that it’s happening within Europe.

“This week, we kicked off with Nike, launching its Pegasus 41 [running shoe], which has had a facelift in time for the Games, so you can really start to feel Olympic fever kicking off.”

Will a summer of sport provide a good uplift in sales?

Ian Wright

Presenter and former footballer Ian Wright features in Sports Direct’s latest campaign 

”Absolutely. We’ll see a big boost in sales predominantly due to the product we have access to now. So, every one of those high-end products that you see in the campaign, we will have front and centre in our stores and ecom channels. 

“We launched the Euros retail campaign and you’ll see it in more than 550 stores across the UK and Europe. There’s a full ecom takeover – you’ll see it across our social channels – and, of course, the TV advert will help drive consumers to the stores.”

Will it attract new shoppers?

“We’ve seen a lot of new shoppers come into our business in the last couple of years. I think the elevation strategy has really helped drive these new consumers. We still have our existing consumers that we’re very proud of, and I think that’s why we have that value offering across the board.

“But we are the number one destination for football so you’ll have that consumer coming in, and we strategically always place football at the top of our store, so we make the consumer travel through the store. We know from the brands and the product axis that we now have that broader reach.”

You’ve been busy with new and upgraded stores as part of the elevation strategy. How’s that going? 

“The elevation strategy is going at an exceptionally fast pace right now. We opened our fourth flagship in Cardiff in February this year and I think the stores are going from better to best. We’re just making sure that the concepts are at the best stage as well, so you’ll see a lot of digital elements come to play when you look at Cardiff.

“We’re also focusing on developing some of our categories. So, in 2023, we had a big focus on running. We set ourselves a challenge to be the go-to retailer from a running perspective. We created a consumer-led concept – previously, we merchandised product by brand and now they’re by end-use, so very easy for shoppers.When I worked at Nike, I could just about get my head around the Nike assortment, never mind being a consumer who is coming in and looking across multibrand.

“We brought that first one to life in February 2023 and, by the time we closed our fiscal year, we had the concept across 127 stores, which is an incredible achievement, and all the KPIs are moving in the right direction.”

Model

Football kits are always a big seller for Sports Direct

You also launched your first outdoors concept for hillwalkers and trail-runners in Cardiff. What’s the reaction to that been like?

”It’s been incredible. We want to become the number one sports retailer in Europe and tourism is a massive business. If you look at Germany, 25% of the market share is outdoor alone, whereas in the UK it’s 6% – probably the smallest. 

“You can probably see out there that trail and hiking is very much on trend right now, and particularly with a younger consumer, so we wanted to give them an aspirational space they could shop in. We took the same approach that we did with running and made it consumer-led. We brought new brands into the mix – The North Face, Columbia, Salomon and more – so that was really exciting for our customers and retail staff.

“The plan is to open another 50 outdoor concepts this year. We’re also thinking about how we serve the consumer in stores. Previously, we would move staff around stores; now we have true runners working in running and we have outdoor experts working in outdoor, because we want to make sure that we continue to give that consumer the best experience.”