Hervis Sports, the largest integrated sporting goods retail chain in Austria, wants to concentrate more on bikes, outdoor, running and snow sports in the future, without ignoring fitness, football or other categories, said Werner Weber, who became CEO of the company in November 2019, in a virtual press conference held on April 8.

He mentioned the recent opening of two flagship stores of about 2,000 square meters in Vienna and Innsbruck where most of the surface is devoted to bikes and outdoor products, respectively (details in our Outdoor Industry Compass). Similar flagships are planned for running and snow sports, but Weber would not comment on dates or locations.

Hervis’ smaller stores will also specialize more and more on any of the four major sports, but their personnel will be able to order specific items in other categories from a vast in-house catalog online for delivery within two days to the store or to the customer’s address.

About 25 more stores will be based on this concept, which was first tested at a new location in Bad Ischl near Salzburg in November, focusing on outdoor and winter sports.

Weber also said that Hervis will seek to reinforce its claim as “the leading omni-channel sports retailer” in Austria over the next five years, offering a broad range of services both online and offline, including expert advice and click & collect.

The Sport 2000 and Intersport cooperatives of independent retailers have higher market shares than Hervis in Austria, but the latter’s integrated structure has allowed it develop its omni-channel operations more easily. They helped Hervis to post a decline of only 3 percent in Austria last year, according to its parent company, Spar Österreich, more than doubling its digital sales to counter-balance the closure of its physical stores in the country for 20 percent of the time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A 25 percent increase in sales of all kinds of bikes, which was partly induced by the pandemic, also contributed to limit the sales decline in Austria at 3 percent last year. Its sales of e-bikes rose by 50 percent. Hervis has been cultivating this segment for about ten years. It maintains a special relationship with a leading Austrian bike producer, KTM.

Adding its numerous stores in six other countries, Hervis’ total sales fell by 7.3 percent to €470 million in 2020. The chain also has a presence in Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia and Romania with a larger number of stores.

It currently operates a total of 235 stores, compared with 237 a year ago, and it is aiming for 250 units by the end of this year. It just opened its 104th Austrian store in the Styrian city of Weiz, and one or two more will follow later this year. Most of the expansion will take place outside Austria, notably with the addition of two more stores opened earlier this month near Budapest, one due to open in Slovenia shortly and one planned for Croatia in June.

For Hervis, one of the new challenges is the emerging competition from Decathlon and XXL, which have both entered the Austrian market in the last few years, covering many categories at generally low prices. According to various reports, they booked sales of €20 million and €12 million last year in the country.

Weber indicated that Hervis intends to keep a premium positioning in the market, while offering entry-price options and occasional promotions at affordable prices.