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JD Sports Leaves Others in its Wake

While active online, this retailer still draws people through its doors

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At the moment, if you’re not focused on what you’re doing online, and on being digital, then popular thinking has it that you are probably not in the game. Yet take a look at U.K. sports shoe and clothing retailer JD Sports, and while things web-based are certainly important, it’s the store that’s the thing as far as the public face of this outfit is concerned.

This is a retailer that has very shiny stores across the U.K., with most of them acting as destinations, thanks to its mix of in-store interactivity and shopfronts that are never anything less than eye-catching. JD Sports keeps powering away when others are failing, and its ability to bring generally younger shoppers through its doors to buy branded sports footwear is a matter of relatively long-standing record.

It also keeps opening stores in the Europe and Asia Pacific regions. It acquired Indiana-based sports retailer The Finish Line for nearly $560m in March and has declared an intention this month to open five JD Sports-branded stores in the U.S. by the end of this year.

And yes, you can have a perfectly decent transactional experience when buying a pair of sports shoes via the retailer’s website. But the chances are that you’ll still head for its stores, it has 1500 of them (the majority are still in the U.K. where it is the market leader) and it’s an odds-on bet that if you’re one of its shoppers, you’ll use the JD app while doing so.  

In short, this is a sports shoe retailer that is sprinting ahead of its rivals and doing so by having not just ranges that they want, but also by giving them environments in which to indulge their passion. Now more than ever, retail is about so much more than having the right thing in the right place … you know the rest. It’s understanding the physical “something else” that is needed that determines the winners and JD Sports is among the front-runners in this respect. 

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A, based in London and then Düsseldorf, Germany. He lives and works in London.

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