Sports Direct unveils multichannel strategy as chairman comes under attack

Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell announced profits down 57 per cent, as he accused the media and government of attacking the company.

The sports retailer said underlying profit before tax slumped to £71.6 million from £166.4 million in the six months to 23 October.
In 2015 an undercover Guardian investigation exposed the fact that many workers were being paid less than the minimum wage. A later parliamentary committee report compared conditions in the company’s Shirebrook warehouse to a Victorian workhouse.

Hellawell said an “extreme political, union and media campaign waged against this company” had damaged its reputation, influenced customers and had a negative impact on the morale of Sports Direct’s staff.

However the company did lay out its multichannel strategy, against the backdrop of its stated ambition to become “the Selfridges” of sports retail.

It said that a new focus on sports retail, which accounts for more than 67 per cent 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 division 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 website and app. This, it said, “was a new level for the group’s collaboration with Nike.”

Sports Direct still owns a large stable of brands including Slazenger, Everlast, Lonsdale and Karrimor.