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Sportswear puts pressure on traditional shoe retailers

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Shoe and sportswear giants JD Sports and Under Armour will be the next international brands to upend local retailing, putting pressure on Australian rivals when they set up in Melbourne.

Under Armour has begun scouting for a Melbourne flagship store, industry insiders say. It will join new arrival JD Sports, a British sports fashion outfit due to open a flagship store on April 27 in Melbourne Central.

People line up for limited edition runners at the opening of Foot Locker in Bourke St Mall. People line up for limited edition runners at the opening of Foot Locker in Bourke St Mall.  Photo: Joe Armao, Fairfax Media.

A significant shift in customer choices towards casual sportswear and away from dress shoes has started to transform the city’s footwear retailing landscape.

Foot Locker this week opened its Bourke Street Mall store, a shop with a significantly larger annual rent – $1.7 million for a 600 square metre footprint – than its former Swanston Street outlet.

Nike Jordans. People shop for limited edition runners. Opening of Foot Locker, Bourke st Mall Melbourne. Runners, ... Nike Jordans. People shop for limited edition runners. Opening of Foot Locker, Bourke st Mall Melbourne. Runners, Speakers , joggers , Jordan, Adidas ,Puma. 13th April 2017 Fairfax Media The Age news Picture by Joe Armao Photo: Joe Armao, Fairfax Media.

Last year Puma launched a flagship store in Melbourne Central under its Forever Fast banner and rival runner-maker Nike is also scouting for a sizeable flagship space.

JD Sports’ 540 square metre store will offer leading global brands such as Nike, adidas, Lacoste, Reebok, Ellesse, The North Face and Puma.

Dubbed the Undisputed King of Trainers, the London stock exchange-listed group aims to create a cross-category product range, from performance to lifestyle, for men, women and children.

The popularity and trendy nature of sportswear has resulted in pop-up sneaker stores such as Secret Sneaker operating from a small space in the QV precinct in Lonsdale Street.

People line up for limited edition runners. Opening of Foot Locker, Bourke st Mall Melbourne. Runners, Speakers , ... People line up for limited edition runners. Opening of Foot Locker, Bourke st Mall Melbourne. Runners, Speakers , joggers , Jordan, Adidas ,Puma. 13th April 2017 Fairfax Media The Age news Picture by Joe Armao Photo: Joe Armao, Fairfax Media.

The sector is also strong enough to sustain the leading players segmenting their offerings into stand-alone stores.

Adidas’ Bourke Street Mall store focuses on training while its shop in Melbourne Emporium targets sports fashion. Nike, too, separates its apparel and footwear offerings between Melbourne Central and Emporium.

Opening of Foot Locker, Bourke st Mall Melbourne. Runners, Speakers , joggers , Jordan, Adidas ,Puma. 13th April 2017 ... Opening of Foot Locker, Bourke st Mall Melbourne. Runners, Speakers , joggers , Jordan, Adidas ,Puma. 13th April 2017 Fairfax Media The Age news Picture by Joe Armao Photo: Joe Armao, Fairfax Media.

Sneaker Boy in Bourke Street is aiming to expand and has secured a store in Chadstone.

Colliers International leasing agent Cam Taranto said the rise in popularity of active wear has created pressure on other segments of the footwear industry.

“Sport shoes are part of today’s fashion,” Mr Taranto said. “Many retailers in the designer and dress shoe industry have experienced a sharp decline in sales,”

While lifestyle shoe retailers were aiming to expand their retail presence in the city, “this certainly isn’t the case for designer dress shoe brands, which are looking to consolidate or close stores”, colleague Jarrod Herscu said.

Struggling independent discount retailer Payless Shoes went into voluntary administration late last year and administrators Ferrier Hodgson opted to close 132 stores across the country and let go 730 staff in February.

Payless also let go of its prime Swanston Street store as a result.

A brace of others traditional shoe retailers are pulling out of prime locations or changing focus, particularly in Collins and Little Collins streets.

ZOMP’s future on Little Collins is under a cloud, Aquila will exit from Collins Street, and BeautiFeel and Stuart Weitzman have already closed their stores, relocating to other, cheaper, premises.

Niche players such as online retailer Bared.com, which also has a physical store in Armadale focusing on fashionable orthotic-friendly footwear, appear unaffected.

Bared is to open a second, 250 square metre city store in Manchester Lane, the former premises of non-profit bar Shebeen.

Sportswear is big business. A Roy Morgan survey found 734,000 Australians bought sporting equipment, not including sportswear or footwear, in an average four weeks in the 12 months to March 2016, spending $1.33 billion over the year.

Shopping centre landlords have earmarked the sector as a growth engine in the coming years and large retailers are keen to get a stand-alone presence in prime city locations.

With Carolyn Cummins

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