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All hail JD and Sports Direct

I’m anticipating a barrage of hate mail, but even so, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that JD and Sports Direct’s various brand and indie acquisitions could be a very good thing indeed for the fashion industry.

Every time one or the other (not that they’re interchangeable…) snaps up another brand or independent and we report it in Drapers, it is often the most popular story on our website, as comments flood in normally criticising the move. But a lot of those comments are based on speculation.

In reality, there are plenty of people out there, directly impacted by the acquisitions, who say that Sports Direct or JD are incredibly supportive “parent companies”. I had a meeting with a Sports Direct/JD-backed business this week (they want to remain anonymous), who praised their bosses for listening to, supporting and appreciating the expertise of the brand, buying, product, sales or marketing directors and managers. What Sports Direct and JD bring are investment opportunities, better technology and a sharp eye over a spread sheet. I can’t go into too much detail on the latter point, but you’d be surprised at the big-business-mentality expertly adapted to the needs of a smaller company.

Last week, I went to FourMarketing’s showroom to see Ben Banks and Gino Da Prata and, they too, made some valid points about Sports Direct and JD. Gino summed it up nicely when he said: “My point is always this, if these guys aren’t willing to invest, where is the growth in our sector coming from? At the end of the day the market needs investment. And where these guys have backed Tessuti, Originals, Flannels, Van Mildert, it means it keeps these independents alive with a clear direction and opportunity.”

Ben added that, from conversations with the likes of Cyril Williams (Van Mildert) and Neil Prosser (Flannels), “the big brother organisations ask for a plan, they agree to it, and let these guys go off and keep running their business. We have to trust and believe in it, until we see otherwise.”

Indeed. So far, all we’ve seen are businesses that could have disappeared from our high streets be kept alive. What’s so wrong with that?

Ana Santi, deputy editor, Drapers

Readers' comments (4)

  • Hear, hear!

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  • I see what you are saying Ana but may I be so bold as to suggest that by buying everything JD and SD may be keeping the indies "alive" but are they really keeping them independent?

    I have seen it bemoaned many a time in Drapers that the high street is becoming too similar and we need our independents to add variety. Surely JD and SD investing in indies tramples all over this point? They can't really be considered "independent" anymore when they are backed by huge brand houses like these guys?

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  • Anyone bought by JD or Sports Direct cannot be considered 'independent' in any form and it would be wrong to suggest as such. They are simply two players who have money in a market where many companies have little. Despite their 'acquisitions', I do not see them as particularly influential and are receiving disproportional publicity.

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  • Skeptical..........very skeptical. Is it only a matter of time before a takeover of Four Marketing looms?
    I'll expect some more pro JD / Sports Direct reporting from Drapers as the power of these two players in our industry grows. I'm sure the expensive tables at the Drapers Awards will be a mere drop in the ocean to the 'duopoly' which in turn generates more favours.

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