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Sports Direct’s Michael Murray leads ‘elevation’ strategy with new flagship

“From football boots to luxury fashion”: Sports Direct has unveiled a new 100,000 sq ft flagship in Thurrock that showcases its strategy to create the “ultimate shopping destination for the lifestyle consumer”.

The Thurrock site is the latest in a series of new-generation stores that Sports Direct has been rolling out, marking the 19th flagship combining different fascias under one roof.

Located on West Thurrock Way, adjacent to the Lakeside shopping centre, the store combines a Sports Direct, fashion retailer USC, and an Everlast gym, along side an adjacent branch of premium fashion retailer Flannels.

The store features interactive elements such as a facility to record a 360-degree GIF when trying on a new outfit and an urban-inspired kids’ zone that features a selfie mirror. There are also plans for an e-sports arena.

The shop includes a new area for streetwear and fashion concept USC, which was recently rebranded “US Collective”. It has a new brand-edit featuring labels such as Champion, Tommy Hilfiger and Diesel.

Sports Direct is investing heavily into its new stores. It has earmarked £1bn for the project, and expects to spend around £300m per year over the first two to four years of a five-to-ten-year strategy. It aims to develop premium retail space for its third-party brand partners to present “good, better and best product” in their preferred formats.

Head of elevation Michael Murray said: “We are working to create the ultimate shopping destination for the lifestyle consumer, spanning football boots all the way to luxury fashion. The premium space we have developed at Thurrock enables us to give customers a compelling and diverse opportunity to shop.”

Sports Direct plans to open between 10 and 20 of its “new-generation” sports stores over the coming year in the UK and Ireland, most of which will include the new USC concept. It also expects to open between six and 12 new Flannels stores before its financial year end next April.

In its premium lifestyle division, Sports Direct operates 21 Flannels stores, 10 Cruise stores and three Van Mildert stores. The Oxford Street flagship for Flannels is expected to open next year.

The launch of the new Thurrock store thrusts Murray, who first began working with the company in 2015 with responsibility for its property portfolio, into the spotlight. Murray is engaged to the daughter of Sports Direct founder and chief executive Mike Ashley.

In its preliminary results published on 19 July Sports Direct confirmed Murray’s role had broadened to include overseeing the execution of the company’s “elevation strategy”, and said his new title defines him as key management personnel.

It has been previously announced that Murray’s fees are directly linked to the value he creates for the group as determined by an independent property valuation. He was due to be paid 25% of this valuation in September but has waived part of his fee to settle on 20%. Non-executive chairman Dr Keith Hellawell said the company has made a provision of £5m for services to the end of the 2018 financial year for this amount.

Hellawell said Murray holds a key role in transforming and modernising the business: “I note that various commentators in the past have sought to portray Mike Ashley as a so-called ‘pantomime villain’. However, since Mike became chief executive, the company has initiated a process of transformation to the benefit of all stakeholders. This has seen dynamic implementation of our elevation strategy led by Michael Murray.”



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