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Asics has joined the likes of Nike and Adidas as it looks to focus on its own stores and ecommerce offering, or working with major chains, and plans to halt supplies to independent sports retailers from January 2024.

The Japanese footwear brand has sent a letter to specialist retailers in the UK explaining it would cut ties after “reassessing the relationship with many of our customers”.

The letter, seen by The Guardian, comes after an email sent to some larger independent retailers. Several retailers told the publication they had asked for more information but did not received a reply.

“It’s a shock to the system,” said Dipu Patel, the owner of Euro Sports in north London. “We will be losing [Asics] customers – they will buy it online. [Asics] have used us a stepping stone to be where they are and then are going to sell direct.”

The move by sports brands to a direct-to-consumer (D2C) focus was highlighted in the recently published RetailX Global Elite Top1000 2023 report. It found that Nike had evolved from its previous wholesale model to a D2C strategy. Its switch in focus and investment in Nike Direct has seen the company reporting full year revenue in this part of the business increasing by 14%, or $18.7bn on 2020’s level. This includes digital growth of 18% and an increase in sales via Nike-owned stores of 10%.

This growth continues into the 2023 financial year with online growth outpacing total company revenue. Global sales increased by 25% online in Nike’s latest financial quarter, against a total Q2 revenue rise of 17%. D2C accounts for around 42% of the company’s revenue.

While, in 2021 there were reports that Adidas will cut ties with retailers and focus on D2C sales amid ambitious plans to grow sales by a third by 2025. The German sportswear brand predicted 80% of its growth will come from D2C sales, driven primarily by its digital expansion.