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Irish chain Lifestyle Sports to focus on performance clothes amid expansion

Irish sports chain Lifestyle Sports is repositioning itself as a performance sports retailer as it embarks on an aggressive expansion drive.

The business, which has 70 stores across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, will open a 21,000 sq ft flagship store in Blanchardstown, near Dublin, in August.

According to buying and marketing director Andrew Towell, it will focus more on performance sports clothing and equipment rather than mainstream sportswear.

He said competition in the sports fashion sector from mainstream retailers had become too strong. "A lot of retailers have lost their way and gone down the fashion route. We're focusing on key sports to ensure both participants and fans are catered for," said Towell.

"Even though the sports product is sold for fashion, I think to be credible we need to have real sports equipment as part of the offer."

Lifestyle Sports sells brands including Nike, Puma, Adidas, Converse, Le Coq Sportif and Umbro.

Product in the flagship store will be segmented into different sports, with rugby, football and Gaelic games items taking up the majority of floor space, followed by running, tennis, swimming and fitness. Minority sports such as hockey and darts will have the smallest space.

Lifestyle Sports will also recruit staff who participate in the sport they sell product for, so they can offer customers greater expertise.

The flagship will feature an orange-and-black colour scheme and new fittings, as well as updated visual merchandising.

The retailer, whose sales are set to hit EUR190 million (£128m) this year, plans to open five stores every year over the next four years, bringing its portfolio to 90 by 2012.

Up to five of the new shops will be the size of the flagship and will also feature the new concept. Smaller, existing shops will be refurbished to incorporate some elements of the revamp.

Lifestyle Sports also plans to expand into Europe and to launch a transactional website by the end of September. However, there are no plans to open stores in England, Scotland or Wales

"It's the emerging markets outside Western Europe where we see the most potential," said Towell.

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