Trends & Features

10 key areas to consider if you want to open a sports shop

by Paul Sherratt of Solutions for Sport

Will you be online, bricks and mortar or both?
If you’re launching a transactional website, it needs to be treated the same as if you were opening a physical store.

Time and again I see retailers investing in websites, only to be disappointed with the results when they’re launched. You can build the best online store in the world with the best product range and prices, but if you don’t know how to run it or drive traffic to the site, it’s the equivalent of opening a sports shop in the middle of a field.

Likewise, if you are opening a bricks and mortar store, consider the area and what the local sporting amenities are like.

Will you specialise?
In the past few years, the sports retailers that have specialised seem to be generating strong revenues. Running, triathlon and cycling have all enjoyed steady growth and sports participation trends seem to indicate a shift from traditional team sports to more individual ones.

Don’t underestimate the power of the multiple
If you have a sports multiple on your doorstep, look for a point of difference – alternative brands and different product ranges are a starting point.

Consider joining a buying group
With STAG and Intersport, any new sports retailer has a clear choice. Both offer support in a variety of areas – from preferential credit card rates through to merchandising.

Do you have links to the local community?
If you’re considering opening a high street store, think about where your audience is.

If you’re providing a specialist offering, make sure you have, or can create, close links with that specialist community.

Go the extra mile
What else can you offer that will attract customers into your shop? Perhaps something to test the product, such as a treadmill or gait analysis machine, or an added value investment like a stringing or printing machine.

How will you merchandise?
Today’s successful high street stores focus on directing the consumer to core areas and products. Clever use of shop fittings, signage and point of sale is the key to this – look at some of your own favourite stores and try and apply the same rules.

How will you connect?
Your customers will expect to find you online, so you need to consider a website, your social media presence, local sponsorship/activity and perhaps even local press or radio promotions.

Use as many resources as you can to research the market
Read trade magazines, go to trade shows and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone – you’ll be amazed how much advice you can glean from such activity.

Don’t give up
Do I believe opening a new sports store is viable? There’s no doubt there are still opportunities out there, both online and off. However, the days of the slightly disorganised, old-fashioned sports shop are over.

The modern-day consumer expects an environment where they can interact and connect with the retailer. They don’t want to be wading through rows of apparel on clothing rails and be unsure about which area of the shop they can find what they are looking for.

Less is more is undoubtedly the current trend and if any new entrants into our industry – or any existing ones, for that matter – can embrace this, there may well be a sound future for them in the sports trade.

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