There is more to success than just getting bigger. JD Sports shows what is possible.
News that JD Sports Fashion is launching a new fascia, dubbed JD Pro, should hardly come as a surprise to anybody who has been watching JD this year. It is currently rolling out and refining the look across its JD Sports estate that kicked off a couple of years ago in Cardiff and which is now to be found in large cities and malls around the country.
And the need for action has been clear in the face of the continuing threat from Sports Direct. There are, of course, obvious differences between a branch of JD Sports and Sports Direct, with the latter looking a bit of a free-for-all, in store design and merchandising terms, while JD outlets continue to look slicker and slicker.
If the JD Pro format, set to debut on Bow Lane in the City, proves a runner however, the retailer will have put further distance between it and its closest competitor, in terms of its stores anyway. And this is perhaps the point.
JD is a national chain and there are branches in most large towns and almost every city. But Sports Direct is a leviathan with multiple branches in some locations - comfortably outstripping JD in terms of numbers of doors. It is also getting bigger and with the recent cherry-picking operation that it carried out when JJB Sports went into administration, the process continues.
The question facing JD therefore is what to do and the answer to this one seems to be diversification. Whether it’s the new look Blacks stores or the remodelling that continues on its core chain, this is a retail group that has a clear grasp of what is required to ensure that it has continued high street relevance.
It has also avoided what could be seen as a mild trap – snapping up empty stores in an attempt to out-Sports Direct Sports Direct. In doing this and creating better interiors, it has ensured that there is clear blue water between it and its cut-price rival.
It stands as an example of a retailer that has seen the lay of the land in troubled times and which has fashioned a strategy as a multi-channel operator with a very strong terrestrial interest that continues to pack ‘em in. Other retailers might do well to have a look at this - instead of resorting to the usual panacea of chopping prices and hoping that things will somehow turn out for the best. Marathon runners tend to be stick-thin. This probably excludes JD, but it is a very competent and good-looking middle-distance performer.