Trends & Features

The future of sports retail – is there still life in the high street?

I’ve written regularly in this column about the rapid change of pace currently being experienced within our trade.

The influencing factors are varied, but a new morality within which our lives are being deregulated, with more flexibility and different and more varied working hours, is certainly one element driving this change.

Consumers have multiple tools to connect with brands and products and hyper-connectivity is giving a greater power to the shopper and influencing the way in which business is being transacted.

We are becoming a society of value hunters – looking for the best bargain and relishing the experience of sharing our value experiences within our social circle to create a status within our peer groups and, of course, we are embracing online shopping in ever increasing numbers across all elements of consumer spend.

Online spend set to double
A report released by O2 in 2014 concluded that the proportion of online spend will double by 2020 and account for over 20 per cent of all retail sales – up from just under 11 per cent in 2012, whilst physical stores will see their share of spending decline by 10.6 percentage points over the same period.

However, whilst the increase in online spending comes at the expense of sales in physical stores, this doesn’t signal the much-lauded death of the high street.

Instead, the report shows the extent to which the high street will impact overall retail sales and why it cannot be ignored. As people shift from bricks to clicks, the relationship between online and high-street retailers is evolving as retailers create a world where experiences flow naturally between home and store, street and aisle, mobile and market. Technology is breathing new life into the high street.

With more and more people shopping on their smart phones and tablets, stores are no longer just about buying. As online sales increase, the role of the high street store will evolve, provoking counterinnovation from brands and an increase in the “show rooming” trend where stores become experience rather than sales led.

The report shows that a quarter of all shoppers are hitting the high street, no longer to buy, but to socialise with friends and family. Half (51 per cent) of us go to shops to be entertained, a third (33 per cent) to eat out and threequarters to be inspired.

These results show there is a clear opportunity for retailers to continue to introduce social spaces and turn shopping into a source of entertainment – the latest form of leisure.

As a result, stores will see an increasing focus on engagement, providing the shopper with tactile and sensory experiences which cannot be replicated online.

How can the sporting goods industry respond?

If we look more closely at these conclusions and ask what impact this is likely to have on the sporting goods industry, one obvious link is the relationship between sport as a leisure activity and shopping.

In much the same way that cinemas and food outlets have grown the shopping experience, whereby consumers populate destination shopping centres for the whole day and embrace multiple activities, can the sport and sporting goods retailers enhance the proposition?

On a recent visit to Dubai I found myself embracing this very scenario where, in one of the worlds largest shopping malls I skied in the morning, shopped in the afternoon and dined in the evening.

The sports retailers were clustered around the focal point of the indoor ski slope and in another part of the mall the ice rink.

As the definition of “shopping” becomes broader can the relationship between sport and shopping evolve and the sports brands and retailer be a part of this change?


Savvy sports retailers can certainly strengthen customer relationships, and increase interaction, by creating spaces and experiences which will inspire consumers to share their shopping experiences either by commenting, photographing or broadcasting their in-store interactions via their social networks and sport offers the perfect environment for this activity.

Whether it be testing a demo racket or golf club, shooting a football at a virtual goal whilst trying new boots or trying on the latest outfit whilst looking in an interactive mirror all these experiences will enhance your experience.

There are already some examples emerging in our industry, with Oxford Street’s Nike store or Pro Direct’s LDN19, and undoubtedly sports retailers who seamlessly connect the in-store and online experience will see the biggest gains with the savviest taking the opportunity to deliver timely, tailored offers and discounts direct to the palms of our hands.

The O2 report concludes that this seamless integration between online and offline shopping will continue to put the high street at the heart of customers’ online experiences; 85 per cent of online shoppers return products in store and 75 per cent go to stores to collect products bought online.

The popularity of click and collect is expected to increase further to 2020, growing by 260 per cent to seven per cent of all retail sales by 2020. Feilim Mackle, Director of Sales and Service at O2, comments: “Technology is breathing new life into the high street. With more and more people shopping on their smart phones and tablets, stores are no longer just about buying. They are becoming go-to destinations for social, inspiring and rewarding experiences that ultimately drive sales online.”

The High Street is here to stay

Retailers have to recognise that the high street store is here to stay but its role has fundamentally changed. As the distinction between digital and physical becomes increasingly outdated, the brands that truly embrace technology to create a seamless experience for all their customers, wherever they choose to shop, will ultimately win the greatest share of both sales and customer loyalty.

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