Mar 22, 2023
Sports Direct Eyes European M&A Starting with France’s Go Sport
(Bloomberg) -- Sports Direct, the sporting goods retailer owned by Frasers Group Plc, is seeking to expand in Europe, including with a possible acquisition of France’s Go Sport chain.
Buying the business out of administration would allow Frasers to grow in France “with some authority rather than opening store by store,” said Chief Executive Officer Michael Murray. Sports brands are consolidating across Europe, which provides an opportunity for Frasers, he said.
Murray said he’s looking “market by market” at companies that may need financial scale, better logistics expertise or own-brands to make them more profitable.
Go Sport was placed into receivership in January, after its owner ran out of cash. It has around 80 stores across France. Other parties, including Intersport, have also shown interest in the retailer, French newspaper Les Echos reported.
Sports Direct is going through its own transformation in the UK from dingy stores with a pile-it-high, sell-it-cheap approach to big, bright spaces full of brands. The retailer is opening a 50,000-square-foot (4,635-square-meter) Manchester store this week housing Nike, Adidas, Under Armour and Puma alongside the company’s own brands like Everlast and Slazenger.
“We would never have even been able to imagine that we’d have had this product five years ago,” said Murray, speaking from the store, which sells Nike Alphafly 2 running shoes for £279.99 ($343). “We have a great product offering, great partnerships with brands, a great business model. We can now look further afield, especially with brands potentially consolidating across Europe.”
Sports Direct, which has 473 stores in the UK, expanded into Europe in the past but was seen as less successful than archrival JD Sports Fashion Plc in conquering the market.
As part of its latest push in the region, the business hired former Nike executive Ger Wright last year as managing director of its sports arm. Europe’s sportswear market is forecast to grow more than 5% a year to €106 billion ($114 billion) by 2026, according to GlobalData.
Manchester’s five-floor store cost about £10 million and replaces two nearby Sports Direct stores. It has dedicated sections for running, football and specialist sports, with a golf putting green and running gait analysis. There’s even a Michael Jordan basketball shooting challenge designed to be captured for Tiktok. Frasers has inserted some of its other brands in the space with an area for gaming retailer GAME and sports clothing brand USC.
Frasers aims to have as many as 10 of these Sports Direct flagship stores in the UK and Ireland, and between five and 10 in Europe in the next five years.
Now that Sports Direct has upgraded some stores and can offer big brands, it will take a different approach than in the past in expanding into Europe, said Jonathan Pritchard, an analyst at Peel Hunt. It’s also more distinct from JD Sports than before.
“If you’re a runner or a decent footballer, you can get a really good pair of running shoes at Sports Direct for £250 and you can’t do that at JD Sports,” said Pritchard. “If you want a super cool pair of trainers to wear at the pub, you can’t get that at Sports Direct but you can at JD.”
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