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Barry Bown on JD Sports Fashion's strong Xmas performance

JD Sports Fashion chief executive Barry Bown talks to Drapers about beating expectations, differentiating your offer and brand relationships.

JD Sports Fashion is one of the few retailers posting like-for-like increases which must be encouraging?

The figures are even more pleasing considering they are up against strong performance last year, which was actually up on the year before that as well. It really shows that our focus and strategy is working.

What are the key approaches that have helped boost sales?

All we can do is just do what we think is the right thing to do irrespective of what anyone else is doing. Our strategy is based on having a significantly differentiated offer. Not necessarily working with brands which have a very big distribution and working with brands on make exclusive product, getting the mix right.

It’s not really any big secret. Once you’ve decided what you want to be and the brands you want to work with you have to stick to your guns and not be looking over you’re shoulder at everyone else.

In our market, it’s Sports Direct, JJB Sports and Footlocker and we have been trying to move away from them. So we’ll have brands like Bench or Fred Perry or Lacoste that they do not do, along with SMU’s of things like Adidas Originals, which is a big brand at the moment.

What’s been your approach with the fashion chains Bank and Scotts, which are also performing well?

That is a very, very credible performance in the branded fashion sector, especially when you look at all the discounting that was happening in the run up to Christmas. If you wanted you could have got some good bargains in branded fashion in some of the other chains, but we didn’t need to do that. That’s testament to all the staff.
It’s also the differentiation again. Bank is more about the “now” brands – Jack and Jones, Superdry, Henley’s and Gio Goi, while Scotts is maybe a little more mature and mainstream, with things like Penguin and Henri-Lloyd.

How are you responding to shoppers’ hunger for bargains and lower prices and will it affect your price positioning this year?

We didn’t do any discounting until Boxing Day. Putting more value product in the store would be totally opposite to our strategy.

JJB Sports tried to go down the sports fashion mix, with Original Shoe Co and Qube but they haven’t had your success with it.

To do what we do is on the back of 20 years’ experience. You can’t just do it overnight. It’s about great brand relationships, packing, marketing, presentation, not just buying.

Read the full report on JD Sport Fashion’s Christmas trading.

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