Daughters force chief executive to revamp JJB

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The Independent Online

JJB Sports' chief executive, Chris Ronnie, said yesterday he was planning sweeping changes to the chain, admitting that his daughters could find "nothing to buy outside footwear" in the company's shops.

Mr Ronnie was speaking as the company reported a 38 per cent fall in pre-tax profits to £11.2m on sales of £365.3m, down 4.3 per cent. The profits fall was 57 per cent if one-offs are stripped out.

Mr Ronnie admitted: "If I go into one of our shops with my daughters, who are 18 and 21, they won't buy anything in our stores, other than footwear. We need to capitalise on the younger consumer. What we are doing at the moment is we are missing trends."

Mr Ronnie wants to increase the proportion of own-brand sales to 25 per cent from around 5 per cent. The company has signed an exclusive deal for the UK with the sportswear brand Champion, a sponsor of America's National Basketball Association, and Mr Ronnie would like more to follow.

He admitted that the company had been over-reliant on sales of replica kit and said he wanted the company to be in a position to perform regardless of whether England qualify for the European football championships next year. Last year's figures were boosted by heavy sales of replica kit in the run-up to and during the World Cup, despite England's lacklustre performance.

Mr Ronnie said the company plans to shake up its stores and introduce incentives for staff. Summing up what the company had to do, and mistakes it has made, he said: "The key for us is to focus on retail. It is an area we have not been focusing on enough. We have to start investing in our people as well. They need to be incentivised."

Mr Ronnie said: "We have spent too much time focusing on what our competitors have been doing. What we have to do is get what we do right. We have been too close to the Sports Direct model. We don't want to get involved with those guys in terms of product and price. It doesn't work."

JJB's results were in contrast to those of John David Group, operator of JD Sports, which wowed the City earlier this week. It has a number of premium brands such as LaCoste and Ellesse, and is seen as more upmarket and "aspirational" than JJB.

Mr Ronnie said: "Where we differentiate ourselves is we are focused on sport. If you look at JD, they have dropped the sports tag from their stores."

The company has warned of flat profits during the second half, although it has said current trade has improved over the past eight weeks, with sales up nearly 5 per cent.

The shares finished the day up 8.5p at 154p amid relief that the figures were not worse and that current trade is showing improvements. The interim dividend is held at 3p.

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