As Mike Ashley resigns from Sports Direct, what state has he left the brand in?
August 10th, 2021, Christien Pheby

As Mike Ashley resigns from Sports Direct, what state has he left the brand in?

Mike Ashley announced that he would be resigning as chief executive of Frasers Group to become deputy chairman – handing over day-to-day control of the business.

Is it the right time to move? Data from YouGov BrandIndex shows that the last time Impression scores for Sports Direct were positive was in April 2019 (0.3). Since then, the brand has hit a nadir of -33.4 (5 May 2016) – following a period where stories about the retailer’s working conditions broke, culminating in Ashley’s appearance before a parliamentary select committee – and a subsequent peak of -7.0 (24 March 2020; right before the pandemic, and another fall in the brand’s Impression score).

Scores across other metrics have not fared much better. Perceptions of Sports Direct’s Quality, for example, have been negative since before 2015, with scores across this metric hitting a low point of -21.3 (6 October 2016) and a subsequent high-water mark of -7.8 (19 March 2020). This may, in turn, have impacted the brand’s Reputation scores, which measure whether a consumer would be proud or embarrassed to work for a particular brand: again, they have been solidly negative since before 2015, and again, they hit rock-bottom in 2016 (-37.6, 17 October 2016). While they have shown improvement since – and scores are in fact slightly better than they were before lockdown (going from -19.2 to -18.0 between 20 March 2020 and 1 August 2021) – they are still far from positive, or even the (relative) heights of September 2014 (7 September 2014: -8.2).

How did Ashley’s takeover affect House of Fraser?

Ashley’s retail empire acquired House of Fraser in 2018 after the department store chain was placed into administration. Data from YouGov BrandIndex suggests that the move has done the brand no favours.

In terms of Current Customer scores, there has been a clear decline: from 4.6 on 11 August 2018 (a day after Ashley bought the chain), to 0.9 as of 1 August 2021. Given that the retailer was already struggling, it would be hard to attribute this solely to its new owners.

But other metrics may tell a different story. Since taking over Sports Direct in August 2018, Reputation scores, Impression scores, and Recommend scores have all seen a decline, and they have not recovered to their pre-takeover levels. Reports in newspapers from 2019 found that the post-takeover House of Fraser, previously considered an upmarket chain, was full of empty beauty counters and discounted sportswear. The last few years have also seen a raft of store closures and, in July 2021, it was indicated that the chain would be consulting with staff over a move to zero-hours contracts.


YouGov BrandIndex collects data on thousands of brands every day. Figures are based on a 8-week moving average. Learn more about BrandIndex.

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