At its recent annual meeting in Rome, the members of Fedas, the European federation of sporting goods retailers, agreed to work more closely with Fesi, the European federation of the sporting goods industry. The two bodies will discuss the terms of their cooperation in the next few months, including the possibility that Fedas will become an associate member of Fesi.

Responding to a cooperation proposal formulated by Fesi and submitted to Fedas after a meeting at the last Ispo show in Munich, all the members of Fedas voted in favor of it except for FPS, the French sporting goods retailers' federation, which abstained. The day after the meeting in Rome, FPS announced that it was resigning from Fedas because its own proposal to merge the two organizations had been rejected. FPS said it would continue to work in favor of the standardization of electronic data interchange codes promoted by Fedas, however.

Fesi and Fedas have been discussing the terms of a possible cooperation for some time. Fesi made a proposal for a structured dialogue and constructive collaboration on many important issues two years ago. As it turns out, however, at least one member of Fesi, Fifas, the association of French sporting goods suppliers, has apparently been opposed to a full merger at the national or European level, partly because Décathlon is the biggest member of FPS. Many brands continue to view Décathlon as an enemy because of its strong private-label program.

On the other hand, officials of FPS consider the fact that the borders between the retail and wholesale sectors in the sporting goods trade have become increasingly blurred in the last few years on both sides of the fence, with Adidas and other brands opening more and more mono-brand stores. In fact, Adidas, Columbia Sportswear, Le Coq Sportif and Lafuma are among the 1,500 members of FPS because of the multiple services that they get from the organization in terms of market knowledge, legal advice and so on for their own stores.

Hoping that its move will act as a catalyst for a full merger between Fesi and Fedas, FPS feels that it would provide strong synergies in terms of financing, the promotion of sports participation, legislative issues, staff training, the optimization of the supply chain and market knowledge. Officials of FPS said they were refusing the status of associate member for Fedas because they want a “balanced” relation between suppliers and retailers. Intersport International adopted a similar stance two years ago, when it decided to stop working as an associate member of Fesi on the standardization of supplier-retailer interfaces.

After the French pull-out, Fedas is made up of retailers' associations in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. In all of these countries, except in Austria, suppliers and retailers are represented by different associations. Fesi and Fedas have been working together recently on several important issues such as the lifting of the European anti-dumping duties on leather shoes from China and Vietnam. Feeling that FPS had been more “impatient” about this, officials of Fedas said that a stronger cooperation with Fesi would help the parties to evaluate the opportunity of a merger with Fesi.

At the more international level, the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry has also been anxious to promote a stronger collaboration with retailers. Intersport International and Sport 2000 International are already its members. Meanwhile, Spanish sporting goods retailers have reportedly started talking about the possible rebirth of their own former national association, Andad, which has been in a sleeping mode in the last few years.