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Blacks to roll out new store concept

Outdoorwear retailer Blacks Leisure is planning to roll out a more fashion-driven format for its Blacks chain as part of plans to boost sales growth.

The business has launched a new store concept at its shop on Kensington High Street in west London, which features branded areas for its key labels. It has also ditched its black and white logo for a more modern orange and white graphic featuring a mountain motif.

Chief executive Neil Gillis said the company would invest a significant amount into transforming its stores. “This is the blueprint for what we want to do with a big chunk of the portfolio,” he said. “Outdoor clothing has become fashionable, but the way it is sold is dull.

“We’ve lightened the store and rather than being merchandised by product, it is merchandised by brand in special pods on wheels, which we can then move according to the season and the performance of the brand. The key is to be flexible.”

The Kensington High Street store has 15% less stock than before, with the focus on key brands including The North Face, Animal and Roxy. More stores will be revamped over the next couple of years.

Sister chain Millets, which is aimed at more dedicated outdoorwear customers, will also be revamped, with the first new-look store debuting in Croydon in Surrey at the end of the month. A revamp of the group’s boardsports chain Freespirit will go into Manchester’s Trafford Centre store.

Blacks and Millets stores will be given new dry-weather and wet-weather window merchandising formats to add flexibility.

The new looks are part of the company’s turnaround strategy. In January, Blacks Leisure said full-year profits were likely to be below market expectations after falling sales in its boardwear division, which includes its Freespirit and O’Neill businesses.

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