AS Adventure, the leading Belgian outdoor retailer, may go on the acquisition trail again next year after its successful takeover of Bever Zwerfsport, its Dutch counterpart, earlier this year. The integration of AS Adventure in Belgium, Bever Zwerfsport in the Netherlands and Cotswold in the U.K. is proceeding smoothly and the group is expanding in all three countries.
Little has changed in the stores since the transaction was completed on March 14, forming a northern European outdoor retail group with annual sales of about €200 million. The three companies have started to make use of synergies in purchasing, and the data processing systems of AS Adventure and Cotswold have been fully integrated, with the Dutch chain to follow suit over the next months.
Expansion will go ahead as planned, with two store openings scheduled in Belgium before the end of the year. This will bring the tally to 25 stores, with potential for only a handful of additional stores in the small country. Comparable sales have been progressing slowly in the Belgian stores, due to consumer uncertainty caused by the poor economy and the country’s political mess. At least two more Bever Zwerfsport stores will open in the Netherlands before the end of the year, to form a network of 31 stores.
The company is most upbeat about its prospects in the U.K., where it has been growing robustly this year in spite of the country’s glum consumer climate. This year’s comparable store sales look good because they stand against poor results for the first five months of last year, but Cotswold has gained market share from competing retailers by working on its merchandising and in-store communication, which are part of AS Adventure’s strengths. Only a few months ago AS Adventure placed the potential of Cotswold at 50 to 70 stores in the U.K., but the company now believes that there is room for 80 to 100 Cotswold stores.
AS Adventure is eagerly watching out for opportunities that might arise as a result of the troubles suffered by smaller U.K. outdoor retailers. By next year, it could look farther afield for another acquisition, particularly southern Europe, anywhere in the area of France, Italy and Spain.