Assessing the JJB Brand

Each week in association with retail and marketing consultancy Pragma, MarketingWeek.co.uk looks at a high-profile UK brand, assessing its performance against a range of criteria and offering suggestions to improve its overall score. Marks for each section are given out of five stars, while the overall rating is given at the end of the review.

Brand ***

JJB Sports plc was formed in 1971 and by 1994 had grown to a chain of 120 stores. When JJB acquired Sports Division in 1998 it became the largest sports retailer in the UK, with 430 stores nationwide. JJB also currently operates a chain of combined health clubs/superstores together with a number of soccer centres.

The brand is mainstream and value-based with an emphasis on fashion. Its image is more ‘find it yourself’ bargain hunting rather than considered expert service; despite this it remains very popular.

Experience **

The stores tend to be in large modern units with high ceilings and you are welcomed with promotional price-led placards. The majority of the range (two-thirds) is given over to sports fashion and the remaining third to sports equipment. The stores are bright and easy to navigate with leading fashion items (e.g. replica shirts) closest to the entrance and more specialist requirements. The service is mixed depending on when you visit (we visited a store mid-week when it was quiet and got good service, but at weekends service can be variable). The staff, although willing, struggled with more complex requests on the availability of items and with technical advice on higher ticket items.

Product **

The product range is focused on big selling mass-market heavily branded items that everyone can recognise and therefore trust (Nike, Adidas, Puma). The range does not extend much into specialist brands. The offer is fine for people who play sport occasionally, but would be inadequate for anyone who took their sport more seriously. For example there are only 4 styles of rugby boots and 4 types of cricket bat available. Fine for the footballer and the child, and those looking for sports casuals, but not a place for the serious sportsman.

Value Positioning ****

The JJB brand is very much about accessibility to the latest must-have item at low prices. The shop gives the customer a confidence that if JJB stocks the item you are looking for, you are unlikely to find it cheaper elsewhere. All the brands stocked are major labels and you feel assured that you are getting a good deal.

Location ***

JJB has a mixture of store locations (both town centre and out-of-town). Its proposition seems to be caught between the two. Its value for money feel and need to stock extensive ranges/larger items (bikes, gym equipment) lends itself to larger out-of-town units. However, its fashion-led proposition (despite being a sports store) lends itself to high street locations.

Recommendations:

– There is a danger of becoming too fashion orientated (replica kit, casual wear) – the original sports store premise must not be forgotten. There are plenty of competitors in the fashion sector but not so many in that of sportswear.

– The staff’s lack of detailed product knowledge may deter customers from buying higher ticket items (gym equipment, bikes, pool tables etc). Some training in customer service and product knowledge would improve the shopping experience.

– The internet and free, fast efficient delivery of larger, higher ticket goods will be essential to extending sales beyond the basic fashion range.

Overall: ***

www.pragmauk.com

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