Intersport International Corp. (IIC) reports a drop of around 9 percent on a currency-neutral and store-adjusted basis in its members’ retail sales across the world during 2020, but expects a rebound in the spring. In terms of euros and with The Athlete’s Foot (TAF) excluded, total retail sales fell by 13.8 percent to €10.6 billion, in part because of a decline in the number of physical stores to 5,186 from 5,426 at the end of 2019, with a presence in 44 countries. The bulk of the decline in stores was caused by the restructuring of the Swedish and Norwegian operations, combined with the bankruptcy of DW Sports in the U.K. and the departure of Intersport Bründl in Austria.

Thanks largely to its streetwear/lifestyle orientation, TAF scored better, limiting the decline in retail sales to 9 percent on an absolute basis and on a comparable basis, generating total retail sales of about $400 million. Its store network grew from 561 units in 30 markets to 570 in 33 markets.

Besides the strong impact of Covid-19, which forced many affiliated retailers to close their stores at different times of the year, IIC is blaming the weather. At the start of 2020, most of the national Intersport organizations were hit at the core of their business by the warmest winter ever. When it became evident that the novel coronavirus would spread from China to the rest of the world, IIC launched immediate measures to ensure the supply of products from Asia. Retail lockdowns and other Covid-related restrictions around the globe caused further disruption.

On the other hand, the affiliated retailers’ online sales accelerated strongly, tripling revenues in many countries. The highest growth rates were achieved in markets where they had already developed strong omnichannel capabilities. Austria, France and Greece were in the the front-line, according to a well-informed source.

IIC says that Intersport managed to navigate the crisis successfully, “without hindering its positive mid and long-term momentum.” In fact, strong increases in sales and profits were recorded in the third quarter, after weak performance in the first and second quarter and before the new wave of retail lockdowns in the fourth quarter.

After declining by almost 21 percent in the first half of 2020, sales grew by close to 4 percent in the third quarter, but this was followed by a strong decline of around 14 percent in the fourth quarter.

Sales developments varied from one region to another with the impact of the virus. Intersport retailers in China, Australia and Ukraine could substantially increase their sales, while regions like Southern Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America suffered sales declines well below the group’s average. France and Finland outperformed the rest of Europe.

In terms of product categories, running, training and cycling exceeded expectations, and IIC officials expect them to continue to develop more strongly than others. The outdoor segment outperformed to a lesser degree.

Intersport says it is very much encouraged by the high level of newcomers to sport as a result of the pandemic and the high percentage of people who plan to increase their activity levels after the lockdowns. Steve Evers, CEO of IIC, expects the group to record better results than in 2020 as well as in 2019 for the spring/summer 2021 selling season and for the full year. The combination of expert advice at its stores and a “strong omnichannel consumer value proposition” should help the group to overcome the current challenges in its important winter business, says IIC in a public statement.

All in all, most of the national Intersport organizations have “navigated strongly through the storm” caused by Covid-19, Evers says, noting that the current crisis has “forced” the group to adopt new processes, such as moving to virtual go-to-market meetings, and to become leaner and more efficient. He claims that Intersport’s “consumer-focused omnichannel value proposition, with a locally and regionally anchored network, has proven to be the future-oriented recipe for ongoing growth and success.”