Euretco Sport, the second-largest buying group for Dutch sports stores, comprising Sport 2000, Runnersworld and the Sport Point partnership, is rebuilding its management after a tough year. Bertil van der Sluis, who specializes in retailing and franchising, with stints at such companies as Phone House and Mexx International, was appointed director for Sport 2000 in the Netherlands, starting from the second week of May.

Van der Sluis will also take charge of buying for all of Euretco’s sports retailers, replacing Marius Rovers, who will leave the company at the beginning of June, as previously reported. Sport 2000 had been steered for the last few months by Steve Evers, a board member of Euretco, who supervises all of its retail divisions. Runnersworld is run separately by Damy Rutjes, who was already in place.

This comes after a year in which both of the leading Dutch sports buying groups were under pressure in a badly depressed Dutch consumer market. Although there aren’t any reliable figures on the performance of the Dutch sports market alone, retailers estimate that it held up relatively well last year, ranging from a decline of 2 percent to a slight increase, which compares favorably with fashion and footwear retailers. The main reason seems to have been the freezing weather, which encouraged many thousands of Dutch people to buy new ice skates at the beginning and at the end of the year.

In its annual report, Euretco described 2009 as one of the toughest years ever for Sport 2000 in the Netherlands. However, this was chiefly due to the painful integration of the 10 Bakker Sport stores it acquired back in 2008. At the time, Euretco intended to quickly sell the stores to its franchisees, but this failed to materialize. The buying group then had to run the stores by itself, without resources specializing in retail management, which strongly deteriorated the performance of the stores. Six of the former Bakker stores have been sold so far, but with much delay and at a much-reduced price.

Excluding the impact of Bakker, Sport 2000 stores performed slightly better than the market. The banner’s retail sales increased by 3 percent to €134.3 million for the year, including VAT, up by 1 percent on a comparable basis (the figures do not compare directly with those provided last year). Overall sluggishness was compensated by buoyant ice-skating sales, as well as a strong performance in running, fitness and football sales.

Sport 2000 had 123 stores in the Netherlands at the end of last year, but after its reorganization earlier this year, it has mapped out plans to rapidly expand to 170 stores by 2013. The buying group wants to woo more members through its improved buying, which has enabled Sport 2000 stores to remain stable in terms of sales in the first two months of this year.

Meanwhile, Runnersworld, the specialist Dutch chain of stores affiliated with Euretco, saw its retail sales jump by 38 percent to €16.2 million last year, but this included the opening of two stores, to reach a network of 24 units at the end of the year. In comparable terms, Runnersworld’s sales still increased by 15 percent. The chain became profitable last year after a substantial reduction in costs.The buying group intends to recruit new retail members to add another 12 stores for Runnersworld by 2012 in the Netherlands. Another project is to launch the format in Germany, once the Dutch openings are completed. It already has five franchised stores in Spain

Intres, the buying group for the Intersport and Coach stores in the Netherlands, had contrasting performances last year. Intersport stores in the Netherlands bucked the market trend with a sales increase of about 2.2 percent, both in reported terms and in comparable terms. They ended the year with sales of about €203 million for the year, including VAT, at 109 stores.

On the other hand, Intersport Nederland, the buying organization, just about broke even last year after two years of losses. Under the impetus of its general manager, Bart Muurling, the company has therefore embarked on a plan to tighten buying and to harmonize membership terms, which was approved by most of the members earlier this year but caused deep frictions as two prominent members abstained. Twin is the buying group’s largest member, with sales amounting to about €20 million, while the Intersport stores of the Daka retail group reached sales of some €5 million last year. Talks are under way to try to settle their issues.

Intersport’s sales have weakened a little since the start of the year, down by about 1 percent until the end of March, while the market is estimated to have dipped by another 2 to 3 percent. This was attributed to the bonanza of ice-skating sales in January the previous year, as well as the lousy weather in February this year.

Intersport fared much better than Coach, the sports lifestyle banner in the Intres buying group, which saw its sales decline by about 3.8 percent last year, suffering from a heavy downturn in sales of fashion products in the Dutch market – and the decline would be even larger in comparable terms. Coach ended the year with sales of about €28.3 million, including VAT, in 54 stores. Adding sales of 79 independent sports stores with their own banners that buy from Intres, reaching an estimated €81.1 million, the buying group has a retail weight of about €337.9 million in the Dutch sports market.

Coach stores have been increasingly moving away from sports. This became blatantly apparent with the opening of a new concept store in Rotterdam earlier this year. It no longer uses imagery related to sports and describes itself as a lifestyle store instead, even though sneakers continue to form the retailer’s core business.

Separately, Intres reported its own management change, with the appointment of Emiel Poeisz as general manager of its fashion and sports business from the start of April. Replacing Jolanda Kooi, Poeisz has already spent several years at Intres, most recently in charge of services to independent sports retailers.