Trends & Features

How do you solve a problem like Intersport

The Past

I can’t remember how many Intersport Shows I’ve attended over the past 25 years, but its enough to remember the changing face of the group and the trade as a whole.

Back in the day when the Intersport Regionals were strong – Giles, Hargreaves, Warner etc – and when the industry was experiencing explosive growth, the shows were buzzing, vibrant, exciting and stimulating.

Retailers were intent on finding the next new growth area and motivated by attending a show where they could explore some of these new opportunities.

Excel was still around – a mass of sports trade stands in several NEC halls showcasing the great and good of UK sports brands. The regional show at Bournemouth still existed. Allied had their own buying show and, on a global scale, the Super Show was a sprawling mass of hundreds of sports brands all vying to take their place in the market.

Today, as we are all aware, the landscape is very different and nowhere was this more evident than at the December 2018 Intersport Show.

I remember when Nike pulled out of the Super Show back in the mid-90s, citing that they no longer needed to have a presence since they were already engaged with their core dealership.

Roll forward 20 or so years and the same sentiment appeared to be the case at the Q3 Intersport Show as Nike, whilst there with a virtual/digital presence, had no sales force present.

Is this then the future? Is this the start of more and more brands bypassing the show and more decision making/product selection taking place within Intersport HQ?

Intersport 2.0

Intersport UK General Manager Neil Venables has now been in the role for coming up to 18 months.

He is fully aware that changes need to happen for Intrersport to become more relevant to today’s market place and is tasked with locally rolling out the global Intersport 2.0 strategy – a new concept, a new way of doing business.

Core to this business drive is the opening of the new Intersport 2.0 concept stores and the collection of product and store performance data.

It is Intersport’s aim to persuade their members to invest in their stores and, for those that are willing, upgrade using elements of the 2.0 Concept, or to the full Concept store format. A challenging task in the current climate.

Key, of course, to driving this concept forward will be the relationship with the core suppliers. However, against a backdrop of many brands aggressively driving a direct to consumer strategy this will certainly be challenging.

Product Selection

Without a data collection strategy – stock holding and sell through information being fed directly from all members into Intersport HQ – to directly influence individual member purchasing decisions will be difficult.

However, if this data collection element of the new strategy can be rolled out across all members then it will be highly influential in the ultimate selection of the core products that will sit within the Intersport stores of the future.

As Neil explained back in September in this very publication: “That’s also part of the clustering exercise, whether they’re more of a tennis specialist or a cricket specialist etc, making sure we’re offering the right three or four brands to work with them at the best terms and with an aligned marketing campaign.”

And it is this element of the Intersport 2.0 Strategy that perhaps holds the key to what future Intersport shows may look like.

Future Intersport Shows

If, for example, the Intersport selectors have

a) reviewed product ranges from all relevant suppliers for that specialist category
b) reviewed sell through data from all Intersport stores integrated into a central stock system and
c) explored any new trends/ brands/products then there is no reason to suggest that a relevant, logical and profitable product range cannot be chosen centrally by the Intersport selectors and, ultimately, proposed to the core members in a show environment.

This would make the buying process more efficient for members and allow Intersport to work more closely with those suppliers that have products that have been selected within this core range.


However, there are some historical challenges to overcome to really make this strategy a success;

Firstly, many members still see Intersport as a buying group, not a vertical retailer, and do not want a growing percentage of their product selection being “dictated” centrally.

Secondly, many suppliers view a non selection as them being “kicked out of the club”.

Of course both of these objections miss some key points.

No matter what the past, Intersport has to evolve in the direction it is heading to become closer to the Intersport International model and to become more relevant to the end consumer.

No matter what products are selected centrally this does not exclude suppliers continuing to court the Intersport customer base, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the positioning of the store both geographically and from a category perspective.

If we take this to its logical conclusion we find a show in the future where the ranges are segmented – tennis, cricket etc.

The core ranges are selected by Intersport and presented to the members and the brands are not present.

The Intersport selectors can provide additional information if required.

Once these selections have taken place the individual member may then want to add to the core range accordingly, either adding additional product lines that are not showcased by the brands that are showcased or, indeed, by those that have not been selected and he would be welcome to do that by his usual interaction with the brand through stock rooms or sales rep visits.

The future

Its a big step for retailers and suppliers to consider this future but it appears both logical and inevitable.

Intersport will continue to lose members who don’t subscribe to this future (or simply are unable to invest to support the Intersport 2.0 Strategy), however, a more efficient purchasing structure based on real data can only be a benefit to the group in the long run and allow the organisation to move with the times.

The Intersport Show will evolve and, just as the shows of the past are now history, the Intersport Shows as we know them today will undoubtedly disappear.

However that shouldn’t mean that neither the group or the supplier relationships also disappear – they will simply evolve.

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