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The true team player

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Intersport has stores all over the world, but a shared idea from several Italian sporting goods retailers resulted in the creation of Intersport Italia S.p.A., a cooperation whereby local retailers are able to operate using the Intersport name along with their own.

Italian sporting goods chain Cisalfa Sport S.p.A. spearheaded this project, and now the group consists of 100 member retailers. “Intersport actively manages all member stores and works closely with everyone to support them to be successful. For example, we negotiate terms and conditions, product assortment, marketing, activities and more with all of our major brands,” says General Manager Volfango Bondi, who prefers a hands-on approach to his responsibilities.

Mr. Bondi, who has 27 years of experience in the sports industry with companies like Nike and Puma, decided to make the switch over to retail. Always ready for a new challenge, he finds Intersport Italia’s business model particularly interesting.

“We are not a vertical retailer. We do not have an Intersport store. The 40 people in our company provide high-level service to all the members that own the stores,” Mr. Bondi explains. “Our objective is to serve the consumer who actively does sports. We support all members in our group to accomplish this objective and offer a premium service to all affiliates in order to be successful with their business,” he elaborates.

To achieve Intersport Italia’s objectives, each member store carries both big name brands and private labels. “We position ourselves as having a multi-category specialty. We give our consumers a premium service and partner with strategic brands such as Nike, Puma, Adidas, Asics and New Balance. We work with all major brands, but also have several private labels developed by Intersport International. These private label products start at different price points. With these, we are able to be competitive on the market, so that the consumer is able to buy items that are not super expensive,” Mr. Bondi highlights.

One private label, McKinley, is Intersport Italia’s outdoor clothing line. For running and football, ProTouch has been successful at providing a good mix between quality, technology and affordable pricing. Currently, Intersport owns eight to ten private labels, depending on the country, and is always on the lookout for opportunities to acquire new brands.

“We look at quality more than quantity. We look at high-potential entrepreneurs and try to approach them by showing the advanced service from which they could benefit through us. We don’t go crazy trying to develop more brands. It’s more important to us to have high quality and be homogenous,” Mr. Bondi shares.

Intersport Italia takes advantage of its special business model by approaching its strategy in a way that combines large-scale thinking with a personal touch. “We are a global company with a hyperlocal strategy. We adjust to the needs of each country and each area by looking at every city, every region and every entrepreneur. The consumer is always at the center of every decision. This is the key to success,” underlines Mr. Bondi.

“Communication with our consumer is exceedingly important to us. We use the usual channels of connecting in our stores and our website, but now the consumer can also connect through social activities or even play a role in our website. Our intent is to connect with our consumers in a meaningful way and deliver our compelling message with our banner,” Mr. Bondi continues.

Admittedly, using a different business model can also present some challenges. “The most difficult part of my job is to align all the members and entrepreneurs in the same direction. Some are tempted to go left, while others want to go right, because they think they know better. This is the most time and energy-consuming activity that I do,” acknowledges Mr. Bondi.

To maintain a united front, the Intersport International strategy is applied in every store. Although the strategy is adapted according to the country, each store follows the direction of the main Intersport brand. “We actively make sure that we have well-aligned communication in all of our stores. We share calendars and make sure that all locations have a unified message,” points out Mr. Bondi.

The General Manager is confident Intersport Italia is in line with what the future holds. “We are in an industry where consolidation is the trend. In the next three years, there will be fewer players in the EU. We are leaders in the industry and must look forward. We are focusing on elevating our stores and accelerating our position in the EU. We are even establishing a European e-commerce platform, and I believe in the near future we will have the best omnichannel user experience for the consumer, both online and offline. When we think of sport, we think of Intersport,” says Mr. Bondi enthusiastically.

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