The 34,000 sq ft JD Sports store which opened at the weekend on London’s Oxford Street is all about giving consumers more choice.
Walk down almost any street these days and it probably won’t be long before the bold typeface of a Sports Direct store hoves into view.
The branches are almost impossible to miss and on Oxford Street there is a gargantuan four-floor store where cut-price sports and casualwear is available from a site that used to house the flagship for HMV. It measures 60,000 sq ft − big anywhere, but on highly priced Oxford Street this is a bootprint that signals success and a determination to crush all comers.
That said, it does not have things all its own way. This weekend, JD Sports opened its biggest store to date just a short distance along the street. This one measures 34,000 sq ft and is more concerned with experience than discounting, although value still counts. It may be smaller than its nearby rival, but it packs a punch.
“The JD Sports behemoth has very distinct visual merchandising”
In place of Sports Direct’s very densely merchandised mid-floor and perimeter units (although considerably less so than its stores beyond Oxford Street), the JD Sports behemoth has very distinct visual merchandising, uses technology to enhance the shopper journey and has a whizzy-looking click-and-collect desk.
Some of what is on view dates back to the very much smaller refurbished store that the retailer unveiled in the Trafford Centre in the autumn last year.
When that one reopened Stephen White, group marketing director, said: “We’ve got to try things out. There are things in here [the Trafford Centre store] that we know we may not need in this store, but which we have to try for use in other branches.”
Choice and commercial rivalry
Now JD Sports has taken another step forward and with this store it looks in every way both player and a credible presence for any location.
It is also encouraging to see choice and commercial rivalry. At one point it might have seemed as if Sports Direct was not only close to ubiquity, but would sweep all before it, leaving high streets where it would be the only serious sporting contender.
JD Sports has plans in place to open in cities across the Continent (Amsterdam and Cologne in October) and when looked at in the context of the mainly monobrand sports retailers found elsewhere, it seems well placed to do so.
Meanwhile, another retailer steps up to the plate and makes Oxford Street a better place. Lowest price is not the only winning hand in retail sport.