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Michael Conitzer

Drapers probes leading independents to get their View From the Shop Floor


How’s business?We really can’t complain. I’m the chairman of the Kings Road Trader Association and I know most people have been struggling so we’ve had a very good season considering.

How’s do you think the independent sportswear market as a whole is faring?
The recession has caused the market to become very polarised so only the very high-end and the value retailers are surviving well. We’re very fortunate to be in the most salubrious place in Europe. Our customers are very serious about keeping fit. On the whole, anything to do with health fairs well in a recession because people become more cautious. Holland and Barrett are certainly not struggling, for example.

What footwear brands are your bestsellers?
MBT always does well. People often come to us because our staff are well trained in fitting. FitFlops are also doing well. I underestimated how strongly they would sell and have just ordered more.

What brands have you added recently?
In the past week, we’ve added Omgirl from Los Angeles, Tonic from Vancouver and Frogg Togs from North Atlanta and they’ve all been very popular. We’re never closed to buying.

Who do you see as your competitors?
No one in the UK stocks the brands we do. For example, we have 39 different swimwear labels from all over the world and we get exclusivity on most of them. Our closest competition probably comes from Harrods’ Fifth Floor but we take on brands on a daily basis.

What have you done to stay competitive during the recession?
The secret of our success is that I pay my staff more than anyone else. It allows me to choose the best. The main difference between us and a similar business is the customer service. Last time I had a staff vacancy, I received 4,500 applications.

Which trade shows are you attending this season?
We always go to Swimshow in Miami and we’ll also be at Magic in Las Vegas, then ASR in San Diego in September. We’ll also go to shows in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Australia. I spend half the year travelling and seeking out new brands all over the world. We’ll have our Australian spring summer 10 stock in by mid August because it comes ot us as a preview.

What is your split of menswear and womenswer like?
We’re the direct opposite of most sportswear shops because we sell 85% womenswear and 15% men’s. We’re selling more bikinis than anything right now. We sell ever top and bottom separately and if a woman comes in and finds a top that fits her well and we stock it in 18 colourways she’ll often buy 18 bikinis. It’s very different from the men who will wear one pair of shorts to death then come and replace it with a pair in exactly the same style.

Do you have a transactional website?
We were an early adopter, launching our site in 1997, and I wasted a lot of money on internet companies who didn’t deliver. On August 18 we go live with our new site, which will make be cleaner and easier to navigate. As soon as stock comes in we’ll photograph it and get it on the site immediately.

Do you have any plans to expand?
Yes, we will open a 3,000 sq ft flagship elsewhere in London. That too will be in what I call a “worried well” area – the sort of place where there are a lot of yoga studios and the clientele take fitness very seriously and that could be anywhere from Kensington to Hampstead. I speak daily to the agents who are scoping out property for us but we have no definite area or timescale yet. A few years ago I planned to open five new stores but I now think if I can’t get to the shop floor in a fast stroll it’s no fun.

  • Michael Conitzer owner of King’s Road Sporting Club in Chelsea, west London.
  • Brands include Equmen, MBT, Yummie Tummie, Seafolly

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