When it comes to retailers, Intersport is expecting its football sales to reach at least €850 million including VAT this year, compared with about €810 million in 2008 and €710 million four years ago. This amounts to a projected increase of about 5 percent this year compared with two years ago, but points to a little slowdown in the growth of the retailer’s football sales, since they jumped by more than 14 percent in 2008 compared with 2006.

Intersport, which claims to be the largest retailer of football products in Europe through its affiliated stores, is on track to easily reach its target. However, it warns that the market may be affected by over-supply of football products as the brands are multiplying their product launches. They have all introduced sub-categories, each of them offering fresh products several times per year. Retailers with a comprehensive football range are getting updated products nearly all year around, from the jerseys for the clubs and the national teams to the balls for European competitions and the latest versions of each category of boots.

Intersport warns that the pace is getting too frantic for retailers and consumers alike. The retailer even predicts that, due to overheating supply, the industry could be faced with significant inventory issues next year. The problem particularly applies to retailers such as Intersport that distinguish themselves through their specialty approach and therefore have to stock each product in all sizes and with different outsoles.

Intersport has therefore started working on alternatives to drive its football sales, such as its agreement with Adidas and Uefa to organize on-site sales at the finals of the Champions League, the Europe League and the Super Cup. This started last year and will last until at least 2012. Another deal just inked will set Intersport apart as the official sports retailer of the European football championships in 2012 and 2016. Intersport Germany is already the official sports retailer in Germany for this year’s World Cup and of next year’s Women’s World Cup, which will be held in Germany.

Furthermore, Intersport is increasingly focusing on exclusive partnerships. With Puma, it has become the sponsor of three African teams: Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon. Intersport has also obtained exclusive products such as the ultra-light F50 AdiZero boots in sun, black and collegiate gold that were inaugurated by Arjen Robben, the Dutch striker of Bayern Munich, at the Champions League final in Madrid last Saturday. The exact same boots are going for sale only at Intersport this week.

This comes after a robust winter season that saw the sales of Intersport retailers increase by 4.2 percent from the start of October until the end of February. The rise was driven by the winter sports and outdoor categories, particularly on the apparel side. Intersport retailers ended the winter with healthy inventories, but cautious buying is still the order of the day.

Separately, there was some unrest at Intersport France last week after the confirmation that Jacky Rihouet, a long-time Intersport member with eight stores in Normandy, should be elected president at the group’s next general assembly at the beginning of June. This had been widely expected since the current president, Laurent Boudet, had made it known that he wished to hand over his duties and Rihouet was appointed vice president in May last year for the purpose of preparing the transition. However, the change-over is apparently leading to more management changes at Intersport France, as yet unspecified.

France is among the countries where Intersport’s performance has strongly improved so far this year, with a sales increase of about 4 percent in comparable terms for the first four months, and sell-out of football products is strong. The retailer has also gained exposure in the French football business through its partnership with Olympique de Marseille, which won the French championships this year. Intersport had offered a reduction of 5 percent on replica shirts each time the team won, which was avidly used by consumers. The partnership has been extended for the next two seasons.