You could be forgiven for assuming that Dublin is not the sportiest of cities. Our reputation as a town of heavy Guinness drinkers precedes us, and the image of Dubliners as loveable pasty faced, beer-bellied characters is one that is hard to shake for many people. Dublin, however, is a city that is spoiled for choice when it comes to sport shops. With the advent of the boom economy, it seems that us Dubs have gained the type of yuppie vanity more typical of the stressed out occupants of New York and London and can now regularly be seen doused in sweat as we furiously jog around our city in a desperate attempt to get fit and lose that paunch. Champion Sports (Various Locations) “Champion Sports – Ireland’s number one sports stores.” Lifestyle Sports decided to undertake legal action when it took umbrage at this claim. The legal action ultimately proved unsuccessful, as although Lifestyle has a greater number of stores than Champion, Champion Sports earns more money per square metre than any other sports store. Champion Sports is undoubtedly the most successful chain operating in Ireland’s capital. With two stores in Grafton Street, one in O’Connell Street, two in Henry Street, one in the Ilac Centre, one in the Square and many more besides, Champion Sports is a highly visible presence on the Dublin high street. Owned by entrepreneur Paul McGlade (who also owns Marathon Sports, and owns the franchise for USC and Schuh in Ireland), Champion started back in 1990 with just one store in O’Connell St. At the time, Marathon Sports seemed to have the Dublin market sewn up, but Champion proved to be a fierce competitor and grew at an alarming rate. This fantastic growth eventually culminated in Marathon’s sale to Champion boss Paul McGlade in 1998. The Stores are probably more sports-fashion outlets rather than sports shops in the traditional sense, and specialise in clothing and footwear with not
much available in the way of equipment. Selling all of the usual name brands, Champion stock more tasteful and fashionable lines than the likes of Lifestyle. On rare occasions, however, the price reflects this quality. The stores themselves are the most striking sports stores in Dublin. Loud, funky and edgy, they are an attempt to make the sports store a trendy place to be. The staff are extremely friendly and well trained in both product knowledge and customer service. Their only drawback is that sometimes they can be a little over enthusiastic (they are paid commission), and you may feel as if you are being followed around the store. Overall, Champion Sports is the most exciting and trend-setting sports store in Dublin, and is the unrivalled leader in the area of sports-fashion. Lifestyle Sports (Various Locations) Lifestyle Sports has been around for many years now, first as a wing of Quinnsworth and now, of course, owned by supermarket giant Tesco. With branches nationwide, Lifestyle perhaps achieves the widest coverage of any of the chains. In Dublin, branches include a spacious store in the St Stephens Green shopping centre and a large store in The Square, Tallaght. The stores are all designed in pretty much the same way and, although recently given a bit of a makeover, still lag a long way behind the trendy, edgy image of competitors such as Champion Sports. One of the big drawbacks that Lifestyle suffers is the staff. Surly, disinterested and very poorly informed and trained, they are an ineffective bunch, and need to be taken in hand by their employers. Lifestyle offers everything from running shoes to football boots, a wide range of sports clothing and also golf, exercise and snooker equipment. The clothing and footwear ranges seem to be purchased with scant regard to fashion or style (perhaps unimportant in a sports store), but are priced quite reasonably. Marathon Sports (Various Locations) Marat
hon Sports is an extremely well known presence on the streets of the fair city, with stores in Grafton St, Henry St, the Ilac centre and many more besides. Marathon was taken over by Champion Sports in 1998, and has since become almost indistinguishable from its new owner. As such, everything I have said for Champion above also applies to Marathon. The fact that they are owned by the same person is something that Champion and Marathon are not keen to advertise. I think it is important, however, that the general public knows this and does not believe that there is a choice, which really doesn’t exist. Marathon and Champion are the most impressive sports stores in the city and remain the only fully Irish owned chains in the country. They have successfully seen off challenges from the large multi-nationals and surely deserve support for this reason alone. JD Sports (Various Locations) John David Sports opened its first Irish outlet two years ago in the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre. Since then, the English chain has failed to shine, and has been left behind by the already established Irish outlets such as Champion Sports. The staff come across as poorly trained and motivated, the shops themselves are bland and poorly designed, and the ranges offered do not measure up to the quality of some other outlets. A disappointment. JJB Sports (Various Locations) JJB sports is a UK based chain with massive financial backing. Fiercely combated by Champion Sports upon its arrival to Irish shores, with Champion aggressively occupying units that JJB were interested in, the company has failed to make much of an impact. With stores including Henry St, The Square and a very impressive superstore at Liffey Valley Retail Park, JJB is certainly a more visible presence than JD Sports, but has still failed to dent the twin towers of Champion and Marathon. Store design is extremely poor and JJB again suffers from a staff lacking in ch
arisma. While offering a quite impressive range (especially in the Liffey Valley superstore), it lacks the direction and edginess of competitors, but can be very strong when it comes to value for money. Elvery’s Sports (19 Suffolk St, Dublin 2; Blanchardstown Dublin 15) Well, what can I say about Elvery’s? Around for longer than me and long may it continue. Elvery’s is a REAL sports store. Packed to the rafters with the highest quality clothing, footwear and equipment, this is where Dublin’s serious sports people have been coming for many years. A very diverse range is stocked and reasonably priced. The staff are very friendly and highly knowledgeable and the layout does its job very well. An institution. Brenfer Bullseye (46 Capel St, Dublin 1) Deserves a mention for its unrivalled range of snooker and darts equipment. Recommended.