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Multichannel is the way forward for JJB Sports

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JJB Sports today said its priority was to become an “authentic multichannel sports retailer” as it looks to turn around the loss-making business.

Announcing its full-year results, the company said its focus on multichannel would see it broaden the online range by including internet-only items, develop a mobile version of its website and exploit new catalogue opportunities. Its click and collect service, Collect@Store has already been introduced to all stores ahead of schedule, along with an i-store proposition. All of this, it says, will provide customers “with the easiest and most convenient ways to shop”.

At the same time it plans to make efficiencies in areas including its warehousing and distribution, stock management and the retail support centre.

Chief executive Keith Jones said: “Ecommerce lies at the heart of our multichannel strategy and provides truly nationwide penetration and the ‘best of both worlds’ when combined with stores.”

The focus on multichannel is designed to turn around the fortunes of the sports retailer, which today announced pre-tax losses of £181.4m in the year to January 30, up from losses of £67.3m at the same time last year. Turnover fell to £362.9m from £372.5m last time, reflecting the closure of 18 stores over the last year, since like-for-like sales, which strips out the effect of store openings and closures, were up by 5.9%.

The company said that 2010 had seen “longstanding, unresolved weaknesses and inefficiencies exposed in a very challenging retail environment” that had come close to sending it into administration.

As part of the turnaround a new senior management team was put in place, while money was also raised to invest in stores. Last year six “transformed” stores saw sales rise by 16% above the company average, with gross profit 30% above. Some 150 stores are now set to be refreshed or refitted in the current financial year, followed by another 50 in 2012/13.

Other steps will include developing new ranges, exclusive products and improving training in areas such as customer service and product knowledge.

Jones said: “I have never doubted the market opportunity for an authentic multi-channel sports retailer providing footwear, apparel, sports equipment and accessories for spectators through to performance athletes nationwide. It is clear from all our customer research that JJB has the potential to fill this very significant gap in the market.

“It is also clear however that the current offer of product, service and customer experience in the majority of our stores is far from reflecting this opportunity. We have to change to meet our customers’ expectations and make a clear step change that ultimately differentiates us from our competitors. This process has now very clearly begun in earnest.”

Chairman Mike McTighe said the company had a real chance of recovery, thanks to a financial restructuring since year end that had seen successful fundraising and a company voluntary agreement put in place with store landlords. However, he said: “This is the beginning of the hard work and not the end,” adding that the turnaround would take between three and five years in a challenging and competitive economic environment.

The results come in the week JJB Sports entered the IMRG Experian Hitwise Hot Shops 100 list of the UK’s leading online retailers for the first time, at number 95.

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