All 170 staff could go following Sports Direct’s move to end wholesale operations by selling cut-price product
Staff at Firetrap were preparing themselves for news of widespread job losses this week, as management from owner Sports Direct moved to spell out the future for the brand.
Drapers understands that the sports retailer is preparing to tell Firetrap staff – thought to number about 170 – that the company will cease wholesale operations next year.
As a result, the entire workforce could enter consultation over redundancies.
Following an HR audit carried out earlier this year, one source said there was “a very high chance” job losses could affect the full team as Firetrap is turned into an in-house label for Sports Direct.
No announcement had been made as Drapers went to press, but it was understood staff would be told towards the end of the week.
One industry insider, who did not want to be named, told Drapers: “Everyone at Firetrap will be going, and all the operations will go into Sports Direct.”
They continued: “I hate to hear it, and I really feel for all those people who have put their heart and soul into it and those people who spent 20 years building that brand.”
An unnamed recruitment consultant said production, design, distribution, finance and sales staff were already trying to jump ship. “Everyone I see or talk to is trying to get out,” he said.
Another source said staff morale at Firetrap was low, describing the brand as “an unhappy ship”. She added that staff felt they had been treated “unfairly” over the past few months and now had little trust in Sports Direct.
Meanwhile, an anonymous stockist said staff appeared to have been “kept in the dark” about their future. However, a deadline of October 18 has been set by which management had to inform wholesale customers of the brand’s plans.
As revealed by Drapers earlier this month, Sports Direct plans to sell Firetrap product for less than the wholesale price both in stores and online from November 1, undercutting those stockists who had stuck with the brand after Mike Ashley’s business bought it in March.
Sports Direct sourced and produced product without dealing with Firetrap by using a sample range, which is why it can sell at much lower prices.
The move was “the death knell” for Firetrap as a wholesale brand, furious stockists said at the time, with many threatening to return items or cancel orders if the business did not price match and offer a credit note.
At the time, Scott Crowson, managing director of Lincoln indies Coneys and Gere, said: “It is a shame – it sells really well because of the reasonable price point, and there is nothing to replace it.”
Sports Direct declined to comment.