Triggering new initiatives, the retail sector has been reinventing itself in Germany following the retail lockdowns ordered by government authorities to minimize contamination from the Covid-19 virus. A couple of interesting examples were presented during the workshops and conferences given as part of the new ISPO Munich Online event. 

Health Coaching for physical retail

VDS, the German Sports Retailers’ Association, presented a new future-oriented business field for brick-and-mortar stores, called “health coaching,” at one of the numerous workshops during the virtual fair. At the heart of the idea, which addresses the important health market, is a multi-functional testing and analysis device, VELIO® (https://veliosports.de/), which was developed in Germany by Gesund4You and is already in use by some companies.

When it is installed in a store, the system can determine in just 15 minutes a customer’s athletic level based on five motor skills: endurance, strength, speed, coordination and mobility. The data can then be used to jointly define the training goal for the customer and develop an individual training program. The system is accompanied by a “Connected Coaching” app. The digital and analog interplay of analysis and support through to expert advice from the store personnel to find the right product is intended to offer sports retailers a new USP.

Stefan Herzog, president of VDS and former CEO of the SportScheck chain, sees this as a great opportunity. “Traditional brick-and-mortar retail as a business model is finding it increasingly difficult to survive,” said Herzog, adding that this development already started before the pandemic. Retailers used to have exclusive access to goods and sole access to customers, but both have changed massively with online retailing and the brands’ own DTC strategies, he said.

“Retail urgently needs to get out of the consumer world and into the customer’s living world. A customer can buy a new running shoe online, but what he really needs is advice that helps him achieve his goals. Then he’ll be happy to come back and equip himself with the necessary equipment in the store.”

VDS is looking for retailers interested in a pilot project with immediate effect.

Internetstores invests in an automated return center

In order to adapt the processing of returns to its own growth plans, Internetstores, a major German multi-channel retailer, has invested in a new automated return center in the Untertürkheim district of Stuttgart. It allows the company to store 99.9 percent of all returns in the existing warehouse for resale – provided they have come back in perfect condition.

The time-consuming process is only financially worthwhile if the returns can be processed quickly and efficiently, said Frank Aldorf, chief brand officer of the company, in a presentation made at Ispo Munich Online. In the new return center, the parcels are automatically opened, sorted and automatically transported to the relevant work areas for further processing. Certain product groups can also be prioritized.

The new system not only creates efficiency in returns processing, but also uses 30 percent less energy, said Aldorf. The commissioning of all workplaces will take place gradually until 2022.

Internetstores offers products by 1,350 brands through its 40 online shops in 14 countries. It operates the specialized platforms fahrrad.de, Bikester, Brügelmann, Probikeshop, Campz and Addnature.

Internetstores has been part of the Signa Sports United group since 2016. It employs more than 800 people at three locations in Germany, plus one in France and one in Sweden. The group achieved a record turnover of €373 million in 2019. According to Internetstores, the company has grown by more than 30 percent every year since its acquisition by Signa. It shipped 254,000 bikes last year.

Intersport Germany’s early online campaigns

The German Intersport organization drives traffic to the affiliated stores through product campaigns in various sectors that are developed six months before the products become available for purchase by consumers, generally in collaboration with the brands. The campaigns describe the specific products in which the customers may be interested and inform them when the products will become available in which stores in their region.

Intersport Germany has structured the customer journey along a number of digital touchpoints. The first one is intended to generate awareness about the product, followed by a phase where it evaluates the customers’ interest by e-mail or through the social media before they book or purchase the product. The process ends with the customer’s registration for a loyalty program for targeted marketing and special offers.

In turn, Intersport collects data about the best campaigns and the best-selling products.

Most of the sales and deliveries are made directly out of the individual retailer’s warehouse. When this is not possible, Intersport will make the shipment out of its own warehouse/