Bringing new sports brands to local mart
Published on: Tuesday, July 07, 2015
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Kota Kinabalu: Value, variety and a guarantee of only genuine products at Sports Direct.com. outlets – that is the promise Sports Direct MST Sdn Bhd Managing Director Paul Gibbons makes to emphasise the company's commitment to customers."We are happy to be here in Sabah. We're have opened one store here in Sabah and will be opening one in Kuching.

"We already have 12 stores open in the country and Sabah is our 13th store. We have opened as well in Penang, Alor Setar, Mid Valley and (soon) Kuching at Viva City in November. So it will be a total of 17 stores in all."

He said they were now focussing on the local market to bring all these new brands to the consumer.

"We are very encouraged actually, the last two to three days through word of mouth people have been looking for the brands and there are many things they have probably never seen before such as Karrimor, Lonsdale, Dunlop, Slazenger and LA Gear, all new brands which are generally not available (in the State) and everything here is based on value so we try to let the consumer make up their own mind."

On the potential offered by the Sabah market, Paul said the interest in sport, encouraged them to explore the potential here.

"We're quite strong in soccer, badminton, swim and the outdoors. These are the four pillars of what we see as the local sports where we can offer great variety. If the local market know where we are we can create a sports destination. And here, we also think over time we will be able to hit some of the tourist traffic.

As for sports sponsorship, he said this will form part of Sports Direct's mid to long term strategy.

"We get asked a lot for sponsorship and we will look selectively and we will start with the grassroots and junior programmes. So as part of our mid to long term strategy, yes we will.

"Our first priority is our own marketing to consumers and what they want is the best price. This is because we find that the consumers come and they are very well educated already. They have the Internet and Facebook and they already know a lot about our brands.

"The second stage will be to promote some of our brands such as Nike, Adidas, Puma and we are also bringing in Under Armour which is a hot brand from America so this is part of our mid to long term strategy."

On their expansion into the Sarawak market as well, Paul said it was part of their goal to be in place nationwide before they can to roll out some national marketing programmes.

"We want to do these national marketing programmes but to do that we need to be present in Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, Johor so we open in all these strategic centres and then we can really capitalise in doing national advertising."

Paul felt that now is the right time to bring a lot of new brands to the Sabah, Sarawak markets.

"We are quite excited at the interest that we got via social media in these two markets so we think it's the right time to come."

On the customers' reaction to the Sports Direct Kota Kinabalu Store, Paul said they would probably miss noticing some things on their first visit as it's a pretty huge store.

"When people come in the first time they may miss a lot of things so we sell not by product but by zone. You want running, fitness, swim or outdoor, you can go to the right zone."

He added that Sports Direct now has over 900 outlets in the UK and Europe but this was their first step into Asia.

"No other Asian countries, only Malaysia. So we have to showcase the brand and build the business first so that we can then expand regionally. We are very happy that they have the confidence in us to start the business in Malaysia first."

Sports Direct as a company has an annual sales turnover of about RM16 billion but all that business is in Europe.

"So we are actually quite proud to be bringing in the brand into Asia as a stepping stone towards regional expansion.

"It is going to take us some time and a big marketing effort to really educate what we are and what we have to offer."

Paul added that from Malaysia, Sports Direct also hopes to expand into other regional countries within the next two to three years.

"We need to get Malaysia right first, we have about 26,000 different products in this store so our central warehousing, our staff training and having the right location is the first step for us to get right. We have another 12 months or so to get this properly organised and then we will look at some regional expansion.

"Even though the Ringgit has devalued and all of our products have come in from abroad and we have GST as well, we have actually absorbed the GST because we have not increased our price and it makes us really competitive in the market.

"I saw people comparing on their smartphones, they check and look at our prices and we want them to do that because for us, it's up to the consumer to make their own choices."

Paul said nowadays there was also a lot of obscure sports that are now becoming popular such as boxing and kickboxing.

"We will be bringing in equipment as well for such sports and women's fitness is also a massively increasing category.

"We will also be engaging with the local gyms and fitness centres so that we can let people know what we have available.

"So it's going to take some time but ultimately we want to create a destination and hopefully over time we can create enough value that customers will want to keep coming back to shop with us.

"We have taken the competition into consideration and we feel competition is good but on our part we are also very careful because we see there is also a lot of counterfeit products in the market.

"All of our products are guaranteed genuine, we honour our service record and although you can find some of our products in other stores as well, our key proposition is that about 60-70 per cent of the products in our store you will never find elsewhere in Sabah. So in a way we don't see it as a direct competition.

"For example If you go to our running area, we have brands there such as Nike, Adidas, Brookes, Asics, New Balance, Dunlop so there's about 7-8 brands there and it's not for us to make the decision, as the consumer you can either choose to pay RM60 or RM600.

"That's the unique proposition we offer that if you don't want to spend so much, you will always find a value product (in Sports Direct) as an alternative."

Paul said they are aware things now are getting costlier and people want the best value when they shop.

"Quite honestly we now find things are quite expensive and people are very worried on what they spending on and how it affects the household budget.

"This is why in the UK the Sport Direct business grew more during the recession time because people couldn't afford the 600 dollar shoe but could only afford the 150 (dollar) running shoe.

"They need a shoe but they don't want to spend so much money and this is where (at Sports Direct) we have that (situation) where if you still want to buy something branded and not something where you are not sure if the quality is good and where you don't have to pay so much for it.

"We buy direct from the factory and straight into retail and there is no distribution and it's similar to H&M and Uniqlo, so we are the sports equivalent of these type of brands and we try to offer something for everybody from children to grandparents. There's really something for everybody here at Sports Direct."


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