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JJB gets set to win a younger market

JJB Sports is considering opening a nationwide chain of sports shops aimed at two to 10 year olds after a successful trial of two stores in Halifax and Lincoln.

The stores are called JJB Future Stars and sell branded sportswear such as Nike sweat shirts and Reebok training shoes aimed at fashion-conscious youngsters and their parents.

The stores have opened in the last few weeks and have been trading strongly. Four more will open in the next month including shops in Bolton and Altrincham. If they mirror the success of the first two stores then JJB will consider converting its smaller stores to the Future Stars format as it concentrates its adult ranges in larger superstores.

JJB's chairman, Dave Whelan, said: "The results so far have been very good. We will wait and see how it goes but if necessary we will roll the format out."

The stores will stock Nike and Reebok training shoes to fit even a two year old. Prices are high with an Ellesse sweat shirt priced at pounds 17.99.

Britain's large sports shops have enjoyed soaring sales on the back of the huge popularity of branded sportswear. This has come as retailers of traditional childrenswear such as Adams and Mothercare have been experiencing weak sales.

Some City analysts expressed concern at JJBs latest move, saying it was a difficult market. But Mr Whelan said it was a low risk strategy as the stores currently trading as Future Stars are former branches of JJB Sports which had been closed but proved difficult to sell. He said the re-fit costs were just pounds 25,000 per store. JJB will open its new superstore on London's Oxford Street on 25 April.

Investment column, page24