Sportisimo, the leading Czech sports retailer, wants to turn into a bigger regional player following the sale this summer of half of its shares to Slovak and Czech investors. Sportisimo, which has been operating in Slovakia as well, moved into Poland and Romania last year, and the change in ownership will provide it with extra resources for its further expansion.

Sportisimo reported a turnover of nearly 6.3 billion Czech koruna (€233.2m-$259.0m) and operating profit of CZK 358.3 million (€13.3m-$14.7m) in the fiscal year ended in March 2016, putting it far ahead of all other sports retailers in the Czech and Slovak markets combined. Along with online operations that have an international reach, the profitable Czech player currently runs 92 stores in the Czech Republic and 30 in Slovakia, along with three stores in Poland and another three in Romania, which were all opened last year.

Sportisimo intends to open another three in Romania by the end of the year, while the Polish market appears tougher. The Polish market's development has been marked by the rapid expansion of Martes Sport, which has built up a network of 200 stores in Poland.

Interestingly, a regional expansion model has been followed in the Western Balkans on a franchising basis by a retailer based in Slovenia, Mercator, which has just sold its Intersport master franchise to a Polish investment fund, Enterprise Investors (see our previous issue, dated Sept. 21).

Sportisimo was established by two Vietnamese business partners, Do Hong Son and Thai Ngoc Nguyen. They opened the first Sportisimo store in the Czech Republic in 2001. Do Hong Son owned 51 percent of the shares, while the remainder was held by Ngoc Thai Nguyen. After the sale, which was finalized at an undisclosed price, the two founders retained 25 percent each in Sportisimo, while the other half was taken over by two Czech investors who previously worked together at Penta Investments, a Czech investment firm.

Two years ago Martin Kúšik, former partner at Penta, went on to establish a family office, Odissey 44. The Slovak investor has become the largest shareholder at Sportisimo with a share of 45 percent. The other 5 percent are in the hands of Pavel Vajskebr. The two founders remain active in the company, along with Vajskebr. He has a robust track record in the pharmaceuticals business and three years ago he became shareholder and chief executive of MediClinic, which describes itself as the largest provider of outpatient medical care in the Czech Republic.

The change in ownership should not entail any immediate changes in the concept of the stores. Sportisimo has turned into the leading Czech sports retailer with a sharply competitive strategy that is adjusted to the local demand, with a mix of private labels and other brands.

Sportisimo competes in the Czech Republic with A3 Sport, which specializes in sports fashion, and several international players. Hervis was an early entrant, moving into the market in 2012, but it has been stagnating with 27 stores for several years. The more recent arrivals include Decathlon, which came into the market in 2011 and had nine stores in the country at the end of last year. Sports Direct had six stores in the Czech Republic at the end of its latest fiscal year, in April 2016.

The international expansion is led by Do Hong Son. The three current stores in Romania are in Bucharest and Târgu Mure?, while the three Polish stores are in Wroclaw, ?ód? and Jelenia Góra, not far across the border from Liberec.