Germany’s largest sports retailer doubles down on physical stores

Germany’s largest sports retailer doubles down on physical stores

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Germany’s largest sports retailer Intersport Deutschland has embarked on its largest expansion spree since the fall of the Berlin Wall in a bet on bricks-and-mortar shops during the ecommerce era.

The Heilbronn-based group wants to add 100 new own-branded stores across the country over the next six years, targeting medium-sized cities such as Trier, Wiesbaden and Hanau where it is not present. This would increase the number of shops it operates to 500, or close to a quarter.

Chief executive Alexander von Preen told the Financial Times the group believes there will be a “renaissance of stationary retail”, driven by people showing more interest in personal fitness.

“People are increasingly emphasising their own health and fitness,” said von Preen, who predicts Germany’s market for sportswear will grow by almost 50 per cent to more than €19bn by 2030. Intersport controls a third of the market, according to the retailer.

Von Preen said that as many department stores as well as independent sports retailers had closed in recent years there was now “a vacuum” in physical store sports retailing. He added the expansion drive was the biggest the group had undertaken since it established itself in East Germany in the early 1990s.

Founded in 1956, Intersport Deutschland operates as a co-operative with 200 independent sports retailers as members, all operating under its brand. It also supplies 500 independent retailers who operate under their own names with kit.

To open in 100 new locations it is wooing would-be entrepreneurs to join the co-operative to operate new outlets. The group last year sold its sports retailing chain Voswinkel, which operates 50 branches across Germany, to Italian rival Cisalfa Sport.

The German group is the single largest member of Swiss-based Intersport International Corporation, which operates in 42 countries and is one of Europe’s leading sports retailers generating €13.7bn in revenue last year.

Intersport Deutschland last year reported a 5.7 per cent increase in sales to €3.5bn. Its online sales grew 21 per cent last year, albeit “from a low level”, he said.

Von Preen said he was “very optimistic” that the rebound for bricks-and-mortar retailers that had taken place since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic was here to stay, adding retailers needed to combine physical stores and online sales in an omnichannel strategy.

“People want to touch the products before they buy them and they are keen to get good advice,” he said.

Von Preen noted that Germany’s city centres were undergoing a rebirth as local governments were investing heavily in improving downtown shopping areas. “German cities are getting greener and become more attractive places for shoppers to stroll around,” he said, adding that Intersport preferred these locations over shopping malls on the outskirts of cities.