Curating Cool: 5 Questions With JD Sports CEO Justin Lim

The footwear lifestyle expert shares why JD is so beloved worldwide

Photo: JD Sports

“King of Trainers” – that’s what you see when you first step foot into a JD Sports store, printed large and illuminated at the entrance, as well as at every corner you turn.

But that’s not the full tagline of the leading multi-brand sports fashion retailer from the UK. In this age of fast fashion, JD establishes its global name as the “undisputed king of trainers” by offering not only a wide variety of the top sporting brands, but also a range of trainers and apparel that are exclusive to JD.

This year, Singapore joins the big JD family of over 800 stores worldwide with two of our own. Hot off the successful debut at Jurong Point this May, the brand has recently opened a massive flagship store at ION Orchard.

The JD expansion in Singapore and across Southeast Asia comes under the leadership of Justin Lim, the CEO of JD Sports Malaysia and Singapore who has been in the footwear lifestyle industry for the past 12 years. His plans for JD in the region are only growing, so you can expect to see more of the JD name in the next few years.

“In Singapore, we’re not done with two,” Lim promises. “We will have a few more. The next one in the region would be Thailand. We will be opening in Bangkok later in the year.”

“Response has been phenomenal, so we are trying to keep up to pace.”

What makes JD so high in demand? We sat down with Lim to learn more about what goes into becoming the undisputed king of trainers globally.

JD Malaysia COO Mr Andre Loong (left); and CEO Mr Justin Lim (right). (Photo: JD Sports)

What makes JD stand out and attract people to get their footwear here?

Simply put, I think we’re unrivalled. That tagline, “undisputed king of trainers”? We are undisputed. The variety, the selection in apparel and footwear, is more than multiple stores combined. Our selection is just very good, very wide. I don’t think you’ll be bored in our store, you’ll always find something to pick out. That’s because we have so many brands and so many exclusive products – stuff that you cannot buy in other mono-brand stores or even any multi-brand stores. They’re exclusive to JD worldwide, because JD’s account is big, we have a lot of exclusive products worldwide that’s just exclusive to JD. You see the little tags we have on the shoes [metal tags that say “ONLY AT JD”], they identify that the item is only available in JD and nowhere else in the world.

These days, millennials are all about the latest footwear. How does your team respond to their preferences and curate the brands that you want to have under the JD name?

We deal with brands on a global account basis. We have a very big B&M [Buy and Merchandising] team in the UK, so we’re getting global brand access, and we have local B&M teams too, to cover our local tastes.

What we do very well in JD is create two big categories of footwear. There’s one that comes from more of the heritage, classic icons. And then, we also do all the latest and greatest – the brands will always release something new, the latest crazes. And of course for apparel, we have a lot of streetwear apparel that are again, available nowhere else. Our style is available nowhere else.

Nike Men’s Air Max 90 Essential – Exclusive to JD (Photo: JD Sports)

Is the brand mainly targeted at youths and people in their twenties?

To be honest, our age group is quite wide. Although you think the store is very busy and it’s catered only to the younger kids, no it’s not. We do a lot of business here in what we call the “family packs,” so we have the father, the mother, the junior, the kids… all the way down to infants. You know how the young families are, right? They want to be matchy-matchy with their kids! So the market we cater to is quite wide. I’d say our customers are just on trend; there’s not so much of an age group or a target age. It’s really anyone who wants to be on trend. And that’s how we select our merchandising – everything’s very high-street fashion.

What are some of the aesthetics of footwear that attract JD shoppers?

We do play with the colours that are relevant to the local market, that being Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand or wherever else it may be! We always have the local buyers feedback to us on what the trend is. Although ASEAN is very small, and we all have similar trends, but that’s not always the case. Certain countries are colour sensitive, there’s preferences to certain things. That’s what our local B&M team curates. Our visual merchandising team is very strong, very detailed, so what you see in every store is slightly different, catered towards that individual city, that individual location. We want to show you the latest and greatest. So if that changes between country and city, we will change our displays to suit that market.

From Brooklyn brand Supply & Demand, available only at JD (Photo: JD Sports)

Style is always evolving. Consumer tastes can be very fickle – one day they might like something, and another day they might like something else. How is the JD team staying ahead of seeking the latest trends?

That’s the beauty of JD. Because we’re a multi-brand and not a mono-brand, we carry every brand there is in the world. Every brand that you can think of is available in JD. So how we stay ahead of everybody else? We are very specific. Unlike other multi-brands that are available in Singapore and Malaysia, that are targeted towards sporting goods, we don’t do that. If you notice what we have, we are very specific and targeted, we’re lifestyle-driven, we’re sports lifestyle. All the brands know us as a sports lifestyle brand. We’re fashion first. So, how we curate and how we build products with the brands, is based on that train of thought first. That’s why we’re the undisputed king of trainers, because we don’t focus on basketball shoes, we don’t focus on baseball shoes or football boots – we focus on the trends. We always believe that we only carry the coolest of the cool, so everything that you find in JD is significantly cool. It’s street-approved.

ION Orchard flagship store: 2 Orchard Turn, #B4-17/18/19, Singapore 238801

Jurong Point outlet: 1 Jurong West Central 2, #01-34, Singapore 648886