How is Sports Station decoding the 'Athleisure' trend in sportswear retailing?

Pooja K. Sood shared insights about country's unprecedented sportswear industry and how Sports Station, with its distinctive action plan, aims at reaching the sky... very high!
Pooja K. Sood, AVP- Multi Brand Business, Sports Station

Indian sportswear industry is currently touted to be as the most attractive retail spectrum for many foreign players. The industry is already witnessing a drove of international brands booking their slots in this whooping retail facet. These overseas retailers, with an intention to tap the maximum of country’s lifestyle and sports market, have moved beyond the digital practice and have started expanding their roots by adding MBOs, EBOs and large format retail touch-points.

Fueling the trend, SSIPL, a footwear manufacturer-cum-retailer with its chain of multi-brand sports stores named ‘Sports Station’ endeavours to bring a plethora of international sports brands, offering an assortment of options in sports shoes, accessories and equipment, under one roof. 

In a candid conversation with Retailer Media, Pooja K. Sood, AVP- Multi Brand Business, Sports Station shared insights about country’s unprecedented sportswear industry and how Sports Station, with its distinctive action plan, aims at reaching the sky... very high!

How was the idea of Sports Station conceptualised? What is the need you are addressing in the market?
Sports Station is the brainchild of the SSIPL Group which has been in the business of manufacturing and retailing of lifestyle and sports products from over two decades, with major international brands in its kitty, namely, Nike, Lotto etc. Backed with the first-hand knowledge of the market and customer’s preference, the model of Sports Station was conceptualised, with the aim of providing a buyer with multiple options in sports brands as well as products, ultimately helping him in making the right purchase.

Talk to us about the ongoing trends in sportswear retailing in the country
The Athleisure trend is fast catching up in India and Sports Station with the brands it offers are trying to give our customers the products which suit their needs the best.

What USPs make Sports Station a step ahead in competition?
Our brand portfolio – Most of the sports brands available in the Indian market today, are available at Sports Station. To mention a few we offer Nike, Puma, Skechers, Converse, Lotto, Mmojah, Adidas, Reebok, Crocs, Seven, Salomon, Speedo etc. Such mix of brands helps us to cater to a very wide consumer base.

Our focus on elevated service and brand experience - While we are an MBO (Multi Brand Outlet) by design, our focus on an elevated Service and brand experience, make us no less than an EBO (Exclusive Brand Outlet) by character.

How has been the consumer response so far?
The first Sports Station store opened in December 2015, and since then we have added 50 more stores across the country. We are encouraged by the results and the confidence that has been shown in us, both by the customers, as well as the sports brands available in India today. We could not have asked for a better start.

We cater to the modern day consumers who consider fitness as a lifestyle. Adding to which we are also focused towards catering to the needs of serious sports enthusiasts.

As e-Commerce is the way forward. Do you have any plans to foray in this format of retailing? Why/ Why not?
This is the era of the digital. Anyone who chooses to be out of the digital zone will not be deemed as being with the times. As sports station also, we have every plan to enter the digital zone. How soon and in what format, is something that we will disclose soon.

Are you planning to get into the omni-channel mode anytime soon? Why?
Since the age of information technology took over capturing customers’ interest in any possible manner has become quite important. Any retail organization which chooses to leave out even a single channel of customer interaction to sell its product is losing potential customers. We too are certainly planning to enter omni-channel retail, how soon and in what all formats, is something that we will disclose soon.

What are your future scale-up plans?
We opened the first Sports Station store in December 2015, and today we are sitting at 50+ stores. By the end of Apr16, we would be closing in on a store count of 60. So the pace of expansion has been fierce, and needless to say, a fair amount of investment has gone into the stores.

What potential do you see in the Tier II and Tier III cities of the country?
The potential in tier II and III cities is immense, as the retail penetration in these has been low so far. It is because of this that 60% of e-commerce happens in these cities. Further, as a multi-brand retailer, we are better equipped to cater to a wider base of customers in these cities.

What milestones have you achieved in the business so far?
The fact that we have been able to co-exist with EBO’s in the same market is a big achievement for us. Just to site a few, markets like Khan Market, CP, Seasons Mall, Pune, and many more. This goes on to show that we have been successful in creating a value proposition for the consumers, because of which they are buying the same brand from Sports Station, which is available in the EBO next door, or in another MBO adjacent to us.

How do you see growth scenario is this business?
With a number of new trends catching on, namely athleisure, sports and fitness are rapidly becoming a part of the modern Indian lifestyle which presents to us mammoth growth potential. We will keep adding new brands and new products to our portfolio and will continue to increase our retail footprint. From here-on, we are targeting about 25-30 new stores every year, at least for the next 3 years, and would also be looking at gradually increasing our average store size.

Pooja K. Sood