sportslinkMr Lin says Sports Link set up speciality stores to address the gap in its business. Photo: Chong Jun Liang

In the second part of a four-week series, three companies tell Aaron Tan how they expanded from humble beginnings to make their mark at home and overseas.

The Sunday Times
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September 13, 2015

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IN 1970, Mr KT Lim set up a small sporting goods corner in his books and stationery store when he saw a demand for running shoes and foot-ball boots among school children.

As the sports goods business grew, Mr Lim decided to launch Sports Interlink in 1983, his first dedicated sports store in Queensway. The store eventually became the now familiar Sportslink chain of sporting goods outlets .

Much of Sportslink’s success is due to its foray into suburban malls in 1995, says Mr Teddy Lin, Sports Link’s deputy chief executive officer and Mr Lim’s elder son. Sports Link is the company behind the Sportslink chain.

“Our first store in a suburban mall was in Jurong Point, and we were glad the mall gave us the opportunity to showcase our new retail ideas,” Mr Lin says. “That was a key development that helped us to kickstart our expansion into other malls, which began to accept our retail concept.”

By 2002, Sportslink had expanded its footprint to 11 outlets in malls such as Hougang Mall, White Sands, Causeway Point and Eastpoint. As of June this year, the company, with 190 employees, has over 35 outlets islandwide.

Hungry to improve

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While the company had grown over the years, it realised could do better. That prompted Mr Lin to adopt Spring Singapore’s Business Excellence framework to understand how Sports Link could improve its product offerings and customer service, among other areas.

“It was a very good framework, because it helped us to learn more about ourselves and how we can improve the business,” Mr Lin says, adding that the company eventually clinched the Singapore Service Class certification awarded to organisations that have developed capabilities to enhance the customer experience.

But as consumers became better informed and discerning about their sports gear, Sports Link soon found that it had to address a gap in its business, as its mass-market products would not appeal to those who preferred higher-end offerings used in specific sports such as football and running.

“That’s why we started our speciality stores in 2010, with higher performance products from various brands that will meet the needs of customers who are interested in specific sports,” Mr Lin says, adding that Sports Link now runs a slew of speciality stores such as 12th Man, Anta, Gym Locker, Runner’s Edge, Hoops Factory, Solecase and AE, a lifestyle-focused outfit.

Specialty stores

Setting up specialty stores, however, was not enough. Sports Link also had to rethink how it presented its products and spruce up the in-store experience.

“It’s no longer just about displaying everything we have,” says Mr Lin. “We’ve tweaked the layout of our stores, so a customer who is looking for running shoes can just head to the shoe section, rather than go through racks of products that used to be grouped under different brands.”

The company also had to revitalise its brand image and identity to engage younger customers and stay relevant in today’s dynamic market.

Mr Lin says: “We decided to change our Sportslink logo, which now looks younger and fresher while retaining the blue colour that represents the commitment of the company. It also includes a small infinity logo that signifies the never-ending process of change and improvement.”

Mr Lin hopes to grow the business organically, by engaging customers through social media and an upcoming public relations campaign, rather than open more stores in a highly saturated sports retail market like Singapore.

“We will also seek to build long term relationships with both new and existing customers by leveraging interactive marketing,” he says.

For more information on the retail sector and stories on how retailers have built their capabilities, please visit www.spring.gov.sg/retail or email lifestyle_division@spring.gov.sg