Adidas u-turns on Amazon and Ebay sales ban

Adidas is to drop its ban on retailers selling products on storefronts such as Ebay and Amazon if they promise to adhere to strict guidelines, a compromise that comes as the company braces itself for a competition probe following complaints by Sports Direct.

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Adidas is looking to enhance the way its products are presented online by giving vendors a set of guidelines.

The shift is a reversal on previous hostilities to online vendors that led the sportswear maker to censure sales of its products from third-party marketplaces in 2013. It was the latest in the company’s efforts to regain control over the customer experience, although the backtrack suggests an acceptance that the likes of Ebay and Amazon are key to reaching consumers.

Vendors are to be issued with guidelines on how to sell Adidas and Reebok-branded products that are likely to include fonts, logos and other assets designed to reinforce a premium tone. It is a practice the company already uses for its distribution deals with established retailers such as JD Sports and Footlocker.

A spokesman for Adidas says improvements to the ecommerce offerings of many marketplaces over the last two years has sparked the shift. The guidelines will create the “highest possible standard” for customer experience, claims the business, following the “positive feedback” earlier attempts to differentiate its distribution channels caused.

“Both the market and the ecommerce business have evolved and changed and we have closely monitored this development“, the spokesman adds. “As a result of this development and as part of our strategy, we have decided to extend our ecommerce guidelines to also include open marketplaces: if our retail partners adhere to our criteria, there will be no restriction for online sales in any channel.”

The move comes as the company faces an investigation from regulators after being reportedly referred to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) by Sports Direct. While an official request has not yet been made to the CMA, the retailer is said to be angered by Adidas’ refusal to supply its best-selling shirts to stores over concerns about their presentation. Despite the clash, Adidas extended an olive branch to the discount chain earlier this week and said it was open to improving relations.

Anti-cartel regulators are already investigating Adidas after smaller retailers slammed it for attempting to only supply major outlets. The investigation is ongoing.

The clampdown is a result of Adidas’ fears about the downward price pressure exerted by online sellers and discount chains. While the global distribution failed to lift sales significantly in 2013, when sales dropped 6 per cent, the company ploughed funds into its own physical and virtual storefronts in 2013 to offset the losses long-term.

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