Retail

Global sports chain JD Sports is expanding its Australian reach in the face of tough retail numbers

Emma Koehn /

Footwear retailer JD Sports is opening its fifth Australian retail hub in seven months, with the international brand saying it has seen great results, despite broader sales numbers showing spending is flat in the lead-up to Christmas.

The UK retail chain opened its doors in Melbourne in April having been launched into the Australian market by Rebel Sport founder Hilton Seskin.

At the time, retail experts told SmartCompany the brand had the opportunity to capture market share from other sporting brands given JD’s ability to source limited-edition footwear otherwise not available in the Australian market.

Seskin says the plan has been a success, claiming in a statement about the opening of brand’s new site in Melbourne’s west this week that there had been a “phenomenal response” since the Melbourne Central flagship opened just months ago.

“We have been able to achieve great results by presenting the customer with the best product and by leveraging the retail theatre that JD Sports is known for globally,” he said.

By the end of the year the brand will have stores in Melbourne’s CBD and Highpoint Shopping Centre, Pacific Fair in Queensland, and Miranda and Parramatta in New South Wales.

The continued expansion of the fashion retailer comes as Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals the Australian retail sector missed expected growth figures in September, painting a bleak picture in the lead-up to Christmas spending.

Sales figures were completely flat for September, with $2.6 billion generated by Australian retailers for the month representing a 0.00% seasonally adjusted change compared with August.

The numbers come off a challenging winter for retailers, with a 0.5% drop in August and a 0.3% drop in sales in July of this year.

Executive director of the Australian Retailer’s Association, Russell Zimmerman, told The New Daily the numbers were “in all honesty, alarming”, given expectations there would be a slight increase in sales.

However, JD Sports says it is expecting the launch of yet another store to be a bumper day for its brand globally, with the company expecting a week long “sneaker party” promotion to result in significant traffic to the store.

Australian retail incumbents have watched plenty of global brands dip their toes into the Australian market this year, with brands from TK Maxx to Kaufland aiming to boost customer enthusiasm by promoting offers they say don’t exist elsewhere in the local market.

For smaller players, positioning their brands to generate foot-traffic in the lead up to Christmas is a challenge, but Director of Good Things Marketing, Helen Ahrens, says SMEs should not fear big launches of retailers like JD Sports.

Instead, now is the time for smaller players to throw all they have at telling the story of their brands, she says.

“When the going gets tough, the businesses that invest in marketing and R&D long term are more successful.”

SmartCompany contacted JD Sports but chairman Hilton Seskin was unable to provide comment prior to publication.

Make a pitch to your community this Christmas

Global retailers like JD Sports are seeing opportunities in the local market, and smaller retailers also have a chance to capitalise on this if they take a step back to plan a strategy.

“The aim is to find the opportunities, rather than competing with the big players,” Ahrens says.

This involves not being afraid to use formats like photo and video to share the “one-on-one” relationship you have with customers.

One option to generate foot traffic in the lead-up to Christmas would be to think hyper-local, and promote sales in terms of what this will allow your business to give back to the community. Ahrens suggests thinking about telling customers how their sales will contribute to charity contributions or other projects your business is involved with.

Given there will always be opportunities to capture more shoppers, Ahrens advises businesses to just focus on promoting the one thing you can deliver that other retailers can’t.

“Just be proud of what you’re doing,” she says.

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Emma Koehn

Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.

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