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