Stockists fume over being ‘misled’ as sportswear giant begins selling brand at below wholesale price.
Sports Direct is planning to sell young fashion brand Firetrap for less than the wholesale price both in store and online from November 1, throwing its future as a wholesale brand into serious doubt.
The fashion and sportswear giant has already launched a dedicated Firetrap page on Sportsdirect.com, where product, including T-shirts, tops, outerwear and knitwear, is available for pre-order.
According to an email from Firetrap to stockists, seen by Drapers, the brand’s team was only made aware of Sports Direct’s plans in the past two weeks.
The email also claims Sports Direct “sourced and produced product completely separately to Firetrap Limited” using a sample range, which is why it can sell at much lower prices.
The wholesale price of a women’s Dionne Snap T-shirt is £12 and it is sold in stockists for around £35, but from November it will be available at Sports Direct for £7.99. The Turan Gilet is sold at wholesale for £30, and retails at £80, but Sports Direct plans to sell it for £24.99.
Stockists have been told to continue selling at full price until October 18, after which Firetrap will offer “help” with affected lines, although it is not clear what the nature of this help will be.
The move has been met with anger and disappointment from indies, who had been assured Sports Direct would not sell Firetrap products directly when it acquired the brand’s owner, World Design & Trade, in March.
One stockist said he felt “misled” by the company. Another added: “It’s the death knell for the brand in the full-price arena.”
Furious indies, many of whom are just putting autumn 12 stock into store, are threatening to pull spring 13 orders if the brand does not price match and offer a credit note, while others have returned autumn product and cancelled any future orders.
Paul Turner-Mitchell, co-owner of young fashion indie 25 Ten Boutique in Rochdale, said he had only maintained the relationship based on assurances Firetrap would not be offered for sale in store at Sports Direct or online. As Sports Direct had breached its undertaking, Turner-Mitchell said he was forced to act. “I have decided to withdraw the collection from sale and return it. I have also cancelled spring 13,” he told Drapers.
Scott Crowson, managing director of Midlands-based indies Coneys and Gere, is also considering his future with the brand. “If they don’t do what we want, I will cancel spring 13,” he said.
House of Fraser, one of the brand’s major stockists, added: “We are waiting for more information at this time.”
The Firetrap move comes in the same week as Sports Direct snapped up 20 JJB stores as the sportswear chain went into administration. The deal includes the JJB brand and website. Sports Direct did not respond to requests for a comment.