THE chief executive of struggling retailer JJB Sports has stepped down just weeks after a US turnaround specialist was parachuted in as chairman.
Keith Jones has overseen a torrid time in charge of the Wigan-based retailer, which has twice come close to collapse in recent years and has needed to raise extra funding on three occasions.
His departure, which was confirmed in a statement yesterday, comes weeks after Bob Corliss, who previously ran franchise-based footwear business The Athlete’s Foot, announced he was to join the company to work on ways to improve its performance.
Earlier this month, JJB issued the latest in a series of profits warnings after its turnaround hopes were derailed by poor summer trading and said it is to seek another round of rescue funds.
It has struggled to compete with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s buoyant Sports Direct International chain as well as being hurt by the downturn on the high street.
Since Mr Jones joined in March 2010, the shares have fallen from about 170p to 5p, giving the company a market value of just £22m.
Mr Jones has stepped down from the board but will still provide advice to the group until the end of August when Mr Corliss will officially take up his role. Meanwhile, JJB, which has 180 stores and employs some 4,000 people, is in “advanced discussions“ to appoint a new chief executive.
Mr Corliss said: “I would like to thank Keith for his tireless efforts to rescue JJB and return it to commercial health.”
But the group’s last trading update, earlier this month, showed a further deterioration after it revealed that poor weather and weak demand for replica kits resulted in a disappointing Euro 2012.
Like-for-like sales were down by 8.7% in the 24 weeks to July 15.
Though there was news some stores refurbished under its turnaround programme performed much better, with headroom on lending terms becoming increasingly tight, JJB said it had started talks with “strategic partners“ about bringing forward the funds needed for overhauling stores.
The move came just three months after the chain landed £20m from American retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods and a further £10m from existing shareholders, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
It earmarked £20m of the most recent funding on converting 60 of its most important stores in 2012 and 2013 into a new format that during trials produced much-improved sales and margins.