Intersport plans to reduce the range of products sold at its stores in Sweden by a further 25 percent in 2014, focusing on key product categories and working more closely with fewer suppliers. This is one of the strategic orientations that emerged from an interview recently conducted by the Sportfack magazine with Ulf Kinneson, the former general manager of Puma International for the Nordic countries who was appointed chief executive of Intersport Sverige at the beginning of 2013.

In addition, Kinneson and other officials of Intersport Sverige told us that Intersport Sverige has decided to close down its new Budget Sport operation to focus on its core business, and that it will work much more closely with the head office of Intersport International Corp in Switzerland in the future.

Kinneson also announced the appointment of three new experienced managers to the executive board. Two of them spent a long time in the non-food operations of ICA, the largest retail company in the Nordic countries.

One is Daniel Anvelli, who will serve as chief operating officer at Intersport Sverige, replacing the former logistics manager, Jimmy Klintenberg. The other is Annelie Forsberg, who replaces Thomas Wernersson as chief financial officer.

Additionally, Tomas Petersson joined recently as chief commercial officer, taking the place of the former purchasing director, Jan Stegrell. Petersson came from Puma, where he acted as European sales director and then as global merchandising director for footwear. Meanwhile, Per Skårner, who acted as interim CEO before Kinneson's appointment, has become a member of the supervisory board.

The decline in the number of SKUs offered by Intersport in Sweden is an evolution of a program initiated by Kinneson's predecessor, Frederik Johansson, who led a reduction in the number of suppliers from about 400 to 125 during the 2008-11 period, with most of the merchandise purchased by the retail members centrally through the cooperative.

Intersport Sverige has now chosen five focus areas where it will attempt to become market leader with its core consumers: cross-country skiing, running/training, team sports and cycling. All of these sports segments require advanced technical knowledge, so the sales staff will play an important role for customers when deciding whether to shop at Intersport.

Kinneson told Sportfack that Intersport should project a clearer picture of the chain's market position as the most specialized generalist retailer in the sports sector, both in the affiliated stores and from a brand perspective.

Much greater importance will be placed on Intersport's online store, and an updated loyalty program will be launched in 2014. The interior of the physical stores will be updated to make them more attractive, to facilitate the choice of products and to give a strong presence to global sports brands with which Intersport has a partnership. Kinneson indicated that Intersport had analyzed all its former and new competitors in Sweden and the retail situation in the rest of Europe and the rest of the world before reaching these conclusions.

Sales were more or less flat at Intersport in Sweden last year, but with higher margins and higher conversions in the stores.

There are just over 150 stores trading under the Intersport banner in Sweden right now, and the total number will most likely remain the same for the next five years, Kinneson added, as some new stores will open and others will close. Currently, there are no new plans to change the ownership structure for the Intersport organization or the individual retail stores. The former management, headed up by Johansson, had attempted to set up a more capitalistic structure for the retail cooperative, which would have acquired a 91 percent stake in each of the stores, but this plan was set aside at the beginning of 2012.