Rebel targets local high streets for $1b sales boost

Rebel Sport is opening small-format stores in high-street locations as part of a strategy to lift sales to more than $1 billion.

Rebel Sport is opening small-format stores in high-street locations as part of a strategy to lift sales to more than $1 billion.

The sporting goods retailer is also rejigging its online store and investigating a customer loyalty program in response to increasing competition from online retailers such as CatchoftheDay, which is planning a dedicated sporting goods site early next year.

The first Rebel FIT store - one-eighth the size of a full format big-box store - opened in the Sydney suburb of Balmain last month.

Managing director Erica Berchtold sees scope for as many as 30 small-format stores as larger sites become harder to find and time-poor consumers opt to shop locally.

Super Retail Group, which bought Rebel and sister brand Amart for $610 million in 2011, has a history of experimenting with new store formats. However, Ms Berchtold says the small-format sports store has presented the company with some conundrums - including what not to stock - and finding the right people to manage the stores.

"We know what we want to put in there, but where do you draw the line?" she said. Rebel has resolved the issue by augmenting its range of apparel and footwear for pursuits such as pilates, yoga, boxing, swimming and running with in-store kiosks where big-ticket items such as cross trainers and bicycles can by ordered online and delivered or collected.

Rebel has been one of the best performers in the Super Retail Group since it was acquired, with sales rising from $465 million (35 weeks) in 2012 to $704 million in 2013 and earnings before interest and tax rising from $49 million to $74 million.

Same-store sales growth so far this year is running at 6 per cent.

Ms Berchtold, 37, was general manager of merchandise at Rebel between 2003 and 2007, before it was sold by Harvey Norman to Archer Capital.

After a few years at David Jones and apparel retailer Specialty Fashion, Ms Berchtold was lured back to Rebel by Super Retail chief executive Peter Birtles in 2011.

Ms Berchtold wants to lift Rebel's sales to about $1 billion, or 30 per cent of the market, and boost margins from 10.5 per cent to 11 per cent.

However, daily deals sites and online discounters such as CatchoftheDay are targeting the sporting goods sector and have gained a foothold in the market, taking advantage of cost-price differentials between Australia and overseas.
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