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Running out of road

Lack of exercise can be deadly. But it's a combination of stiff competition and crimped consumer spending that's ailing JJB Sports. Its career is all but over.

The sports retailer founded in 1971 by former professional footballer Dave Whelan, went on to become one of the biggest of its kind in Britain with over 400 outlets.

Now it's the latest symbol of a ravaged retail landscape. Mr Whelan, whose parents hailed from Ireland, sold his family's stake in 2007 just before everything went pear-shaped.

In 2009, he bought JJB Sports' chain of gyms. But it was JJB Sports' string of debt-financed acquisitions post-Mr Whelan's departure in 2007 by new chief executive Chris Ronnie (who bought Mr Whelan's 29pc stake with financial backing from Iceland's Exista) that would really put the boot in.

As consumer spending shrank amid the recession, financing that debt was tougher than ever.

Stores sales followed as did debt restructuring. It wasn't enough. With the whistle now close to being blown, the demise of JJB Sports leaves attractive pickings.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is likely to weigh in under his JD Sports chain. Ireland's Stafford Holdings could also be interested.

Whoever gets it, JJB Sports will serve as a reminder of just how quickly the tectonic plates of the retail landscape can shift.

Irish Independent