Russia’s biggest sporting goods retailer, Sportmaster, plans to boost the share of sales online to 30 percent, as compared to 12 percent before the coronavirus pandemic, said Dmitry Strakhov, Sportmaster’s sales and development director.

To reach that goal, Sportmaster plans to design and launch a new online store as well as a new app. The company also plans to strengthen infrastructures by developing so-called “backbone stores,” which would serve not only as brick-and-mortar retail outlets but also as logistics hubs to handle online orders. The concept of the backbone store emerged during the retail lockdown introduced in Russia to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In total, 60 stores are due to be re-designed to serve as “backbone stores,” Strakhov said. This should cut delivery times for online orders in most Russian territories to only one or two days, he added.

Strakhov said that the initial post-quarantine revenues from Sportmaster’s foreign division appeared to be above expectations. The division includes the Go Sport Polska chain in Poland and the Danish chain of Sportmaster and Rezet Sneaker stores, which Sportmaster acquired in the past two years.

The retail lockdowns were removed in those markets earlier than in Russia, where the new retail environment should become clearer three or four months from now, Strahov noted. As the country’s economic conditions are far from perfect, the company plans to refrain from raising prices for the time being, he added.

Online retail is growing in Russia

In 2019, Russian customers placed 6.1 million orders for sporting goods in online stores, pushing their total value up by 15 percent to 26.2 billion rubles (€336m-$377m), according to the Moscow-based think tank Data Insight. Sportmaster came out as the absolute leader in this segment, accounting for 45 percent of all online orders placed in Russia, said the agency.

We estimate that, at this level, online sales of sporting goods represented about 10 percent of the country’s total sporting goods market. Some 51 percent of all online orders were placed through mobile apps. Almost all companies are using home delivery services to execute orders, and more than half are delivering the goods through the Russian federal mail operator Pochta Rossii.

Nearly all the retailers have been promoting their offers through the most popular social media. Around 95 percent of them advertised them on a Russian social network called Vkontakte and 86 percent on Instagram.

Sportmaster launches Urban Vibes

Meanwhile, Sportmaster has just launched a new chain of streetwear-oriented stores called Urban Vibes. The first such store began operating in Moscow in mid-June, selling a broad range of sports shoes and casual and sports fashion clothing from such brands as Adidas, Reebok, Nike, Asics, Vans, New Balance, The North Face, Fila, Kappa, New Era and Skechers.

A Russian newspaper, Vedomosti, reported that Sportmaster is planning to open 10 Urban Vibes stores in the Russian capital, taking over the premises of former Under Armour stores.