EAG, market leader on the Austrian sporting goods retail scene, is taking steps to give its Sports Experts format a new profile. One of the company’s major problem has been a not well defined distinction between Sports Experts, which is its low-price concept, and the high-quality format of Sport Eybl. Up to 90 percent of the products offered in the two chains are the same, mainly due to joint purchasing, but Austrian consumers have not been able to see why they should pay more at Eybl when the same products have been offered at Sports Experts to a lower price.

EAG’s new strategy, which was outlined last week, seeks to re-positioning of the Sports Experts store concept in order to make consumers understand the difference. In the future, Sports Experts will have its own purchasing unit separated from Eybl’s. While Sports Experts has always followed a low-price strategy, the target is now to become even cheaper then before.

EAG is responding to what it considers to be an increasing polarization among Austrian consumers between high-end customers who look for good quality at any price and aggressive bargain-hunters. EAG estimates that 30 percent of these price-driven customers buy from retailers outside the sports business, led by discounters like the Hofer chain, an Austrian subsidiary of the German market leader Aldi. To better attract these customers, Sports Experts will expand its offer of low-priced exclusive brands and special make-ups, with the cooperation of the brands themselves.

Another major challenge for both of EAG’s store concepts is their relative weakness in the Western alpine regions of the country. The ski resorts of Salzburg and Tyrol are pretty much under the control of highly competitive medium-sized retailers of which a good deal is affiliated to the Sport 2000 group. Eybl will soon open its 11th megastore in Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol. Sports Experts, too, is looking for expansion opportunities in the West. It only has one outlet in Innsbruck, but Sports Experts will try to open up to 50 stores in the region in the years to come. Contrary to its present 18 superstores, which located mainly in Eastern Austria and average 3,300 square meters each, the new Sports Experts stores in the West will have a surface of between 1,000 and 2,800 sqm;.