Insight Update

INDX Sports & Leisure Q&A with Alan Galloway.

What’s your business background?

I worked in sports retail straight from school, starting with Champion Sports whilst they were part of The Arcadia Group, running a sports department within their flagship Burtons Store in Liverpool.
After a couple of years with Champion Sports, and being local to the area, I saw the plans for the opening of Wade Smith Outdoor Athletic.
I knew I had to be part of that, and the memories and opportunity to have worked within such an iconic and unique business still inspires me today.
In 1999 I joined JJB Sports as a Store Manager and managed their recently acquired Sports Division Superstore in Chester, before becoming an Area and Regional Sales Manager covering across the Northwest, working with some great people, enjoying great successes and numerous challenges up until 2012.
In 2012 I fulfilled my goal of having the opportunity to work for Nike, managing stores within their DTC fleet in the UK with focus on Football and eventually Running and Women’s Training.
Nike then offered me a role based out in The Netherlands as their Head of Service and Operational Insights, managing a team of performance reviewers based across Europe. This role gave me a lot of exposure to what a remarkable brand and business Nike is, and the amazing culture and working environment they have built over the years.

Why did you decide to come on board with AIS?

After 3 years in The Netherlands with Nike, I moved back to the UK with my family, and took the UK Head of Retail role with Intersport. After the Intersport UK licence came to an end, I was offered the opportunity to head up the new AIS Sports & Leisure group. I gladly accepted the chance to continue my support of independent sports retailers within the UK.

Why did AIS decide to move into the Sports and Leisure market?

AIS has achieved so much success over the past 40 years, supporting other divisions within the group from Furniture, Homewares, Toys and Fashion it made perfect sense offering Sports & Leisure members the opportunity of us helping to facilitate relationships with suppliers and brands, whilst harnessing the power of a buying group and the additional expertise, service and support AIS can offer its members.

How does this new market complement the AIS brand?

It makes the AIS Group ever more relevant. There are several exciting areas of opportunity AIS can explore and support independent retailers in as well as Sports & Leisure, where we can be more agile in supporting our members to meet the needs of their community.
Several established AIS Department Store members, such as Daniel of Windsor have opened Sports Departments within their business and improving the customers experience and product offering.

How have retailers and brands taken to your new offering?

Our members and brands have been excited and glad of the opportunity to continue productive working relationships since the end of the Intersport license within the UK. The forming of the new group during the COVID pandemic has been of benefit to members and suppliers. Our team can

facilitate and support ways of working with suppliers, making it easier for our members to serve their customers.

You are launching a new trade show – INDX Sports & Leisure in December. How will this benefit retailers and brands and how will it differ from other trade shows past and present?

AIS created the INDX Show brand in 2013 and since then, it has continued to successfully deliver a series of annual business and buyer focussed tradeshows across Fashion and Home sectors from its purpose-built exhibition venue Cranmore Park in Solihull. Adding to the existing portfolio of show categories, INDX Sports & Leisure will launch in December 2021, and it will be open to AIS Members as well as welcoming pre-registered retailers, serving as a unique in-person platform to connect industry buyers and suppliers in a professional, relaxed, and informal environment.

Are you planning more sports and leisure shows throughout 2022?

Yes, we will hold shows in June and December, and plan category and seasonal shows in March and September.

Have you brought together a new team to run these shows or do they fall under existing AIS teams?

When appointed in early 2019 the new MD for AIS Sue Kemp began a companywide restructure and along with the executive board and Senior Leadership Team we mapped out a short-, medium- and long-term strategy. This focused on more effective ways of working as a group and significant upgrades in the groups IT infrastructure.
Sue also recruited additional expertise across the Event and Exhibition management team, appointing Jane Bartlett as our Head of Events and Exhibitions and this central team will run the new show, working closely with myself.

It has been a difficult few years for the retail sector, especially with the impact of Covid-19, what does the future hold for the sports and leisure market?

COVID-19 has indeed been challenging for everyone especially the retail sector and our own independent retail members. Brands and suppliers have all had to take time to evaluate their business. Add into the mix the effects of Brexit and rising production and distribution costs plenty of challenges have presented themselves.
Any challenge also presents potential opportunities, and it’s fair to say COVID-19, lockdown, people working from home has seen an increased focus on a more active lifestyle, health, and well-being. People running, training, and returning to sports and leisure activities, alongside a commitment to support their local business community has been very encouraging.

Are there any plans to further grow AIS or make changes to the sports and leisure section?

There is a lot of growth and opportunity for our current membership, and we can help facilitate and support new independent Sports & Leisure members keen to join the group. Running and Training are two categories that have experienced significant growth and success recently. As team sports activity have returned Football, Cricket and Rugby are also enjoying some strong results. We would like to see additional focus and growth within the group, Trail Running, hiking and Outdoor sporting pursuits have become more prominent and are here to stay.

AIS want to encourage and facilitate members to offer best in class retail, be it selling new innovative product, improving their omni-channel capability, or a better understanding of their consumer journey within the industry.

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