JJB Sports chief executive Chris Ronnie has promised suppliers that Original Shoe Company will be converted back to a fullprice business, after he bought the branded fashion chain for £5 million in a shock deal this week.
Ronnie, who acquired the chain from rival discounter Sports Direct, reassured its suppliers that the 60-store business would not be based on a price-driven model.
He also guaranteed that he would not run the operation as a "discount business", which was the thrust of the chain's strategy under Sports Direct this year.
Ronnie told Drapers: "Brand relations are something that we value very highly. We want brands to feel comfortable with us. We see a lot of opportunity to run Original Shoe Company as a full-price business."
The JJB deal comes hot on the heels of rival John David Group’s acquisition of young fashion chain Bank last week, which has sparked consolidation in the young fashion sector.
Ronnie said the deal would help JJB Sports take on rival JD, which has posted strong like-for-like sales this year. He added that he would convert about 25 of JJB's smaller high street shops to the Original Shoe Company fascia over the next 18 months, and that there was potential for about 120 Original Shoe Company stores – well below Sports Direct’s target of 250.
The deal was met with scepticism from some suppliers, who pointed to JJB's patchy track record in branded fashion. It closed its Icon chain in 2006 after failing to capture the imagination of younger shoppers.
However, Ronnie, who previously worked at Sports Direct with its owner Mike Ashley, said he was "extremely confident" about running a sports lifestyle business. "There is a pyramid where we have JJB Sports at the middle level, and this will help us compete more at the top where you have the likes of JD, Qube, USC and Scotts. Original Shoe Company is profi table, and we think there is an opening for another player up there."
Original Shoe Company sells brands including Ben Sherman, Adidas Originals, Henri-Lloyd, Lacoste and Converse. Ronnie said he will add brands via both acquisitions and supply deals.