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Own-brand move helps Sweaty Betty shape up

Women’s sportswear specialist Sweaty Betty has sustained positive like-for-like sales this year after it implemented an own-brand strategy and made improvements to product.

The retailer, which previously stocked brands including Adidas and USA Pro, moved to an own brand-only offer last June, apart from in footwear, where it still stocks brands including Asics and MBT alongside its own-brand footwear.

Sweaty Betty managing director and co-founder Simon Hill-Norton said: “We were buying from brands but felt one step removed as we could not give our customer exactly what they wanted. Now we feel more in control of our destiny.”

He added: “We have taken risks and introduced more high-end products into stores at higher price points.”

The initiative, which has broadened price points at entry level as well, has been well received by customers, said Hill-Norton.

“Trade was disgusting for nine months [following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the resulting global financial crisis],” Hill-Norton said, but added that since June last year like-for-likes had been strong.

Over the past 18 months the chain has refreshed its brand identity, including the look of its 25 stores, and has also completely refitted some of its top stores and has taken better positions for its concessions in Harrods and Selfridges.

Hill-Norton added that the business would pursue multichannel growth as opposed to a big store roll-out to drive expansion at the chain.

Sweaty Betty will relaunch its website in September. The retailer has also upped its direct mail drive from 50,000 catalogues a quarter to about 300,000.

Hill-Norton said: “We want to make existing stores work harder.”

He added that the chain was in a strong position in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics as health and fitness issues become more prominent in the media.

It is trying to build brand awareness overseas through PR in specialist international press but has no plans to open stores abroad.

“When the biggest sportswomen come to London we want them to know who we are,” Hill-Norton said.

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