Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct is moving into bike retail with the opening of a 25,000 sq ft flagship bike store close to its Nottinghamshire HQ. Ashley has owned bike-brand MuddyFox since 2011 – selling the bikes instore and putting the brand name on a line of 319 road and MTB accessories – but this is his first move into standalone bike retail. There are plans for another five store openings as Ashley aims to take Sports Direct upmarket.
The new flagship store – which will also sell running and swimming kit – is owned by Sportsdirect.com Retail Ltd., which is controlled by Ashley’s Sports Direct International Plc. Sportsdirect.com Retail has become the sole shareholder of Tri Yeovil UK Ltd.
Tri Yeovil is behind the TRI UK triathlon store of Yeovil. In a surprise move, Chris and Ali Boon of the 25-year-old Tri UK recently announced they were to open a further six stores. Records filed at Companies House show that Sportsdirect.com Retail owns 100 percent of the shares in Tri Yeovil.
A flagship TRI UK store is to be opened in January 2018, near Nottingham. The Sports Direct HQ is in Shirebrook, near Nottingham. Sports Direct’s warehouses are sited next to a company concept store and a Sports Direct outlet store.
The new triathlon-based flagship store will have 25,000 sq ft of retail space.
Russell Merry of Cycling Sports Group said: “The cycle retail industry is constantly evolving and we are excited to be a part of the next stage of TRI UK’s growth. To have such a large amount of retail space for our Cannondale brand will enable us to showcase the full breadth of the range under one roof.”
Other TRI UK stores will be opened in Oxford, Edinburgh, Kent and Dublin.
“Sports Direct is on course to become the ‘Selfridges of sport’ by migrating to a new generation of stores,” Ashley said in his company’s annual report, issued earlier this year.
Known for its often-scruffy, cheap-and-cheerful stores and its well-publicised zero-hours work contracts, Sports Direct is now revamping many of its outlets, and will be rolling out brand-specific stores – these will be merchandised more like Niketown than old-style Sports Direct stores.
Sports Direct started to invest in MuddyFox in 2008, and controlled the company by 2011. It had been relaunched by Universal Cycles of Essex, owned by the Markscheffel family. Muddy Fox was one of the first UK_specific mountain bike brands – it was founded in the mid-80s by Drew Lawson and Ari Hadjipetrou following a card game in an ex-pat bar in Saudi Arabia. Their company went bust, and the brand lay dormant until Universal Cycles resurrected it in 2001.
Sports Direct employs 29,000 people, and operates 760 stores in the UK and abroad. The group originated as a single store in Maidenhead, opened as Mike Ashley Sports in 1982. Ashley is currently seeking a buyer for Newcastle United Football Club.