JD Sports winning with Millennials and Gen Z

JD Sports announced this week that it’s delivering like-for-like sales growth of 6% and pre-tax profits of £355m, which is even more impressive given the backdrop of a faltering UK high street.

The brand’s success can largely be attributed to staying relevant to Millennial and Gen Z consumers, which are the highest-spending consumer groups and which are turning their back on more traditional bricks and mortar retail.

One key aspect of JD Sports' success story is its capitalisation of the ever-increasing ‘Athleisure’ trend – product ranges that allow consumers to wear sportswear in all aspects of daily life rather than solely for sporting activities. Athleisure continues to outperform the wider apparel sector, growing at 6.9% per year on a global basis according to recent Euromonitor data. In his relentless pursuit of fallen UK giants House of Fraser and Debenhams, Mike Ashley, owner of Sports Direct, seems to have overlooked this phenomenon, allowing JD Sports to take the lead.

The other key facet of JD Sports’ exceptional growth is acknowledging the power of celebrity influence. Athleisure as a trend has been born out of key influencer activity, particularly on Instagram, from the likes of Beyoncé, with her own label, Ivy Park; Kate Hudson with Fabletics; and Kylie Jenner, who has collaborated with major sports labels such as adidas. Recognising the need for a celebrity endorsement to stay relevant with modern-day consumers, JD Sports has teamed up with the likes of Stormzy and Hailey Baldwin to promote exclusive ranges rather than athletes alone. Other high street retail players have simply failed to acknowledge the need to move with the times in this regard, giving JD Sports the upper hand.

The brand’s story injects some much-needed optimism amidst the wider doom and gloom of the UK high street. Success in this space is achievable but Millennial and Gen Z interests and purchasing habits must be embraced.

Businesses that react to consumer behaviour and capitalise on where people want to spend their time and money are achieving higher growth rates. I expect we’ll see brands that sit within areas of interest to Millennial and Gen Z consumers, particularly health and wellbeing and luxury brands that are considered as treats, to generate higher revenues and to attract investor attention.