Cowgill eyes further European growth for JD

PETER Cowgill, executive chairman of JD Sports Fashion, says extending the group’s presence in Europe is his “number one focus” after its strong first half.

He said the Bury based group was increasingly being seen as a leading retailer on a global basis, and suppliers such as the leading sportswear brands like Nike are keen to support its expansion.

While acquisitions would be considered, he said organic growth would be the main driver.

“Whatever we do will have to be within our risk profle, we’re not going to gamble the farm, ” he said.

The group has stores in Ireland, France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands, trading either as JD Sports, or as Sprinter in Spain, Chausport in France and Champion in Ireland.

Four additional JD shops were opened in France in the first half and the estate now stands at 21. A further five stores will be added in the second half.
In Spain, plans to grow the chain of eight JD shops have been hampered by a lack of suitable available property. Two further stores are planned for the Madrid area in the second half, while “opportunities in other major conurbations” are being considered.

In Holland, where JD has 16 stores, the company said it was pleased with the response to the brand there, stating: “The stores which we acquired initially were concentrated in smaller regional towns and cities. However, the successful start which we have had in Rotterdam, where we opened in a prime footfall location in December 2013, gave us the confidence to open in other major retail destinations.”

In Germany the Isico stores acquired in July 2013 have all been converted to the JD fascia and after a “pleasing” reaction to the name change and product offer, two new small new stores were opened in the first half taking the number of stores to 12.

Mr Cowgill said the first half results – which saw profits rise 100% despite tough comparisons in 2012 – had surprised even his own expectations.

Asked why JD’s shops were performing so strongly, he said: “We are the first destination for any new product launch or technical innovations in footwear and that’s becoming increasingly known to customers.

“We are getting ranges sometimes two years before Sports Direct, and that’s a real difference. We also have products that they don’t have such as New Balance, Converse, Timberland and Vans.”