The changing customer behaviour is a bigger future challenge for Intersport in Denmark than any competitor.
COO Thomas Just Rasmussen tells ScandinavianRetail.com about the first year after the takeover of the sportschain – and what’s needed in the future.
”Maybe there’s not room for everybody in Danish sports retail.”
”It was a necessary change. The old business model was outdated. We could not go on with a national purchasing organisation without a committed retail focus. Today’s challenges demand a fingertip feeling.”
He says Intersport now have to focus on creating the best business model. The change of dynamics in Intersport has meant that everybody now believe in the same mission and he describes the partnership as an improvement for everybody.
”With this organisation Intersport have a lot of strong partners with their own stores – and at the same time we have a strong purchasing organisation. The decisions we now take have to be the best for both worlds.”
We meet Thomas Just Rasmussen after his session at the Retail Design Expo in London. The subject was how to give customers the same approach in all channels.
It sounds like you’d prefer the customers to come to the store to collect their products before buying online?
”Not really, I don know if it’s better for us – but it is right for us and most retailers. In-store you can give the right service and explain the benefits of a good sock together with the proper running shoe.”
Nevertheless, the possibility of extra sales in the store makes Thomas Just Rasmussen put the best seller at the click & collect stand.
Accessibility to Intersport is important. He talks about the importance of being tight on the customer and believes the online players are no dangerous competitors to Intersport.
”Danes can buy online from almost anywhere today, so those players are on the Danish market already. I don’t think online will be all about price in the future. It is important to have respect for the same customer being everywhere. Sometimes he will be comfortable and buy online, and then we will compete with online players. But when he needs advice to choose, our stores will be there for him.”
He also notes that the Nordic growth machine XXL only has announced an online entry in Denmark.
”XXL has some heavy categories like skiing and fishing and hunting equipment that is not big in Denmark today. They can’t use the same store concept in Denmark. That said, I have the greatest respect for their business model.”
”Competition is welcome, and we actually offer the same prices as they do, so the talk about being 20 percent cheaper is not correct. But we won’t compete with them on price. They’re marketing discount sport, a low price concept. I don’t think we should ever do that, as we have an outlet concept for it. Our competition strength is the service offer, our knowledge and high end products they don’t offer.”
He describes the customer behaviour as a larger challenge than any certain player when it comes to competitiveness in the business. Many players are offering parts of the sports category assortment and it’s increasingly important to be relevant borth online and offline.
”Customers mover around all the time. We need to be better at seamless retail.”
Sports retail has been a late adapter when it comes to omnichannel?
”We’ve been traditional! I actually agree, but it’s been a traditional business that has not been pushed before.”
Are you being pushed now?
”I don’t believe we are being pushed, but we need to realize the customer and the customer behaviour have changed. These are some of the changes we are going through in Denmark.”
The last year Intersport Denmark has been working more close with Intersport Sweden, mainly regarding purchasing and logistics, but also sharing experiences between managers.
”Whole Intersport works to get closer together. In Scandinavia Intersport has totally nearly 600 shops. It makes us a very attractive partner. Looking at the structure of our Danish organisation, we now remind more of Norwegian Gresvig than Intersport Sweden, which has a big investor behind.”
But you choose some different strategies. Is Swedish Intersport’s pilot initiative with digital kiosks at traffic sites like airports something you would consider?
”Not at the moment, but we’ve seen the solution and it is very good.”
On the other hand, Intersport Denmark is the only Nordic Intersport to introduce the chain Athlete’s foot. Thomas Just Rasmussen says the sneakers market is an opportunity and a way to reach customers who does not visit Intersport.
You took over Intersport management a year ago with a lot of challenges – and you’ve also lntroduced a new chain. Isn’t it hard to keep focus?
”You could say that, so we have to spend our time well. Intersport will always be our main business. It is our most important brand.”
And how is Athlete’s Foot doing?
”We’ve opened four stores ourselves (totally 7 in Denmark) today and I am actually satisfied with the way it’s moving ahead. We need to see them grow locally, make them national through the larger cities.
Intersport has stated it will open 50 new stores in Denmark. A great part of them are updates or re-profiling.
”But there are blank spots in Denmark where we’ve already started to open new stores the last six months and we know there are more to come. But we have to be realistic. We will see Intersport shops close or relocate as well. But we are sure, that we will see growth in our turnover and a total of more Intersport shops in Denmark during the next five years.
What will happen with sports retail the next years in Denmark?
”We need to focus on the customer behaviour and be better in the seamless retail. I like that word better than omnichannel. And we have a retail category in Denmark that somehow needs to make changes. Maybe there’s not room for everybody,” says Thomas Just Rasmussen.