Sports Direct this week set out details of its multichannel strategy against the backdrop of its stated ambition to become "the Selfridges" of sports retail.
The trader, a Top50 retailer in IRUK Top500 research, said a new focus on sports retail, which accounts for more than 67% of group turnover, would span products, stores, online and marketing. It said the approach would strengthen relationships with third-party brand partners as well as delivering benefits for customers.
Over the first half of the year, it said, its marketing and ecommerce divison had restyled its online presence to reflect the elevation of its sports retail proposition. That has included the launch of a Sportsdirect ecommerce app, along with versions for its Flannels and Firetrap brands. "The app is driven by the group's centralised web platform, and is compatible with both Android and iOS," it said in the half-year statement. "The group is currently improving the seamless feel and customer experience across the app and web." During the first half, Sports Direct worked with Nike on a takeover of the SportsDirect.com website and app. This, it said, "was a new level for the group's collaboration with Nike."
The update came as Sports Direct unveiled revenues of £1.6bn in the 26 weeks to October 23, 14.2% up on the same time last year. Pre-tax profits of £140.2m were down by 25.1% on the same time last year.
Beyond multichannel, it said its focus would be on restoring morale following a "very challenging" first half of the year, in which, said non-executive chairman Keith Hellawell, an "extreme political, union and media campaign" had been "waged" against the company, damaging its reputation and influencing customers.
Sports Direct International chief executive, and founder Mike Ashley said: "The last six months have been tough for our people and performance. Our UK sports retail business continues to be the engine of Sports Direct, but our results have been affected by the significant deterioration in exchange rates, and our assessment of our risk relating to our stock levels and European stores performance.
"We continue to elevate our sports retail proposition for our key third party brand partners and customers, as we progress towards our medium to long term goal of becoming the "Selfridges" of sports retail. We are changing our retail channels for customers in the UK, and we will be changing our approach to our customers in Europe, which will take time.
"What matters most to me is how tough the last year has been for the people who work at Sports Direct. Our people have once again found themselves in the spotlight through no fault of their own, yet they remain hardworking and loyal. It is for this reason that my immediate priority will be to protect the people at Sports Direct. Part of this includes the Company's commitment to underwrite the value of the share awards relating to the 2011 Share Scheme, that are vesting in September 2017, to reduce the impact of recent volatility on the financial outcomes for our people."
His comments follow a period in which a report from Parliament's Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee concluded
that Ashley must be held responsible for "appalling working conditions and practices" at its shops and warehouses.