New year, new dawn?

David Pittman spoke to sports retailers across the UK to find out how they’d experienced business over the festive period, and to find out their hopes for the future.

When asked, most independent sports retailers across the UK tell you that Christmas and New Year didn’t see tills ringing and stock flying out the door. In fact many independents will give you a fairly bleak impression of the last six to eight weeks of trading.

Tony Turner of Rosebank Sports in Northwich, Chesire said: “It went fairly disastrously. Northwich is a small market town which is struggling, and sports is struggling on top of that.”

Roger Brewster, director of Purbeck Sports in Swanage, said: “It was a disastrous period. We tend to find Christmas is not a great time of year anyway and doesn’t do us any favours as people have moved to buying electronic toys rather than sports equipment.

“Plus Swanage is small town near big towns so we do the best we can to keep people coming back. The credit crunch really hit home this winter as well, and the weather hit us pretty bad.”

A spokesperson from Wood Sports in Newcastle said the weather was one of the biggest influences on its sales over the period, while Just Sport, also from Newcastle, said it didn’t even open from Christmas Eve until the New Year.

The Sports Shop in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight is part of a small group that includes three toy stores, and a spokesperson for the group said: “The toy stores did pretty well over the period, but sports not so.

“The sports side of business has been hacked away by the big discount retailers who can offer general sports products at a cut price, as well as offering online purchasing.”

The Sports Shop does have a website, but the spokesperson said it does not have the scale to handle online sales. Instead, it maintains a focus on its catchment area of the Isle of Wight, notable for its older population, and offers products and equipment for sports the larger multiples won’t handle. “Cricket and bowls are still doing OK, and we get a lot of footfall from maintaining a presence in those markets.”

Rosebank Sport’s Turner said his business struggles to match the large retailers in the online space as well. “We do sell online,” he said. “But the bigger names take most of the business in that space.”

For more, see the February issue of SGB Sports, p6.