Trends & Features

Industry Interview: Susan Herbert, Intersport UK head of marketing

When did you get into the sports trade?
I joined Intersport five years ago and before that had worked in brand and marketing roles in the watch and jewellery business. For many years this included a role as brand director for adidas and Ellesse watches, working as a worldwide licensee with both brands. This meant spending time with the brands in the UK and Germany and understanding sports retailing from a different perspective.

I knew the Intersport group from my previous position and when approached about the role I was excited about the potential within the UK and Ireland markets. Seeing the strength and power of Intersport internationally convinced me this was a brand that had great possibilities.

Further to that, my experience with jewellery retail included dealing with two major buying groups, which gave me an understanding and insight into the Intersport group. Everyone would agree that a buying group is a complicated animal and in the case of Intersport this gives us a strength within local communities, which is so important in sport, with the power of a global brand.

What brands do you admire and why?
There are so many, but for me it’s about consistency and the brand knowing what they stand for. For many years I have loved Rolex, not only for its beautiful products, but its history. They were the first watch brand to put their name on the face of the watch. They are utterly classic and haven’t compromised who and what they are and as such are still in demand to this day.

You can argue it’s easy for giant companies to invest and create amazing brands like Apple, BMW and Gap, all of which I admire, but small niche brands with a clear ethos often excite me more. Innocent are a case in point. Started by students, they have retained their brand ID, despite now being a multinational.

Proudest professional moment?
In the words of golfing legend Gary Player: “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” My professional life feels very much like that and it’s rarely one moment, but many moments together over time that lead to being proud.

Since joining Intersport, the group has more than doubled in size, with new members and new stores. This, coupled with a focus on building the brand through marketing, has made me proud to be part of that team and success and I’m looking forward to driving the business on for the next five years.

Intersport UK reported a double digit sales increase in2014. What’s the reason for the growing strength of the brand in the UK and Ireland?
The Intersport brand is fast becoming the most recognisable sports performance retail brand through strong store banners, strong marketing campaigns and strategic sponsorship. The level of Intersport exclusive product and marketing provided by the brands is unparalleled and as the group acts together as one to benefit from this investment, it continues to grow from strength to strength.

Can you tell us about the category approach you have adopted in the UK?
The category approach is driven from Intersport internationally after consumer market research. Sports retailing is changing, partly due to the products now available. 30 years ago a small store could offer multiple categories, as there were not so many product options. But look at running today, the fastest growing category, and so complex now with the technology in footwear, apparel and accessories.

The approach is simple – to merchandise a category together, so that when a runner comes into your store they can shop for all their needs in one area with clear category competence. We have proven time after time in stores that by simply regrouping existing products in the store to a clear category focus, sales increase.

What plans has Intersport UK got to develop thebrand further in the next 12 months?
In 2014 we brought in a central marketing fund that has been invested into key partnerships, sponsoring key sports and community programmes to build the Intersport brand.

This reinforces the investment Intersport has from brands in advertising and in-store support and will focus on our key sports categories of football, running, training/fitness and swim. In addition to this, there will be a huge focus on rugby, with the Rugby World Cup taking place in the UK in the autumn.

Intersport retailers come together under a common banner with a common positioning and a common purpose – to bring sports to the people.

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