Sears boss Liam Strong is seeking a buyer for the Olympus Sports chain’s high-street stores, according to City analysts.
Strong, former marketing director of British Airways, revealed the poor performance of the 200 stores in Sears’ Christmas trading statement last week. He talked of the “continued difficult trading environment for the high-street chain,” adding that “We remain unhappy with the situation at Olympus”.
One analyst says: “This is a coded way of saying Sears wants to sell off these stores.”
Natwest Markets analyst Sean Eddie says: “This is not a cash issue, rather a question of focusing on core businesses.”
The chain has been expanding its out-of-town format Olympus Sportsworld, and has 18 such stores. Reports indicate these are performing strongly; selling off the high-street stores would leave the company free to concentrate on them.
Strong has said before that poorly performing chains in the Sears group would be sold off. The Pro-Performance sports footwear division of 38 stores was sold in October to Owen and Robinson for just £1m. Sears took a £5.8m writedown on the sale.
The Olympus stores are the victim of rapidly shifting sportswear fashions and the strength of independent retailers. It is thought they are most likely to be sold off piecemeal, with some going to rivals such as JBB Sports, JD Sports and Sports Division. The companies have denied they are talking to Olympus about such a move, while Sears denies the stores are up for sale.