BoyleSports has been betting big on the UK retail sector with its most recent shop opening last week in Edmonton, but grander moves were made in Greater Manchester earlier this year with the acquisition of local chain Lewis Bet.
Lee Otter, BoyleSports’ Director of Property and Development, offered exclusive insights into the company’s Mancunian venture. As a thriving city, Manchester is an ideal location for expansion, with the takeover indicative of the continuing potential of UK retail but also representing one element of the firm’s growth plans.
What was it about Lewis Bet that caught your attention as an acquisition opportunity?
A number of factors, but two key strategic and commercial considerations stuck out – The location (in and around Manchester) as it was an area that we had little representation and it is a significant city. The potential – the group offered the potential to improve and enhance the customer experience and compete effectively.
How do you hope to successfully onboard and retain Lewis Bet’s existing customer-base?
By enhancing and improving what was previously there, both in terms of physical environment and the competitive trading package. As mentioned above, BoyleSports prides itself on being a customer first brand and we think what we bring to the market significantly improves on what customers were getting before.
BoyleSports’ UK expansion has so far focused very heavily on smaller towns. Why the change up with a launch in Manchester, one of the country’s largest cities?
They are two different growth strategies, organic growth, which is starting from scratch – assessing betting markets, securing the right unit, obtaining consents and fitting the shop out. We absolutely dictate the location of these shops.
The second is growth by acquisition, which is what the Lewis Bet purchase was, clearly these are trading betting shops with an established business, and we acquire them where they already trade geographically.
With Manchester being such a large city with many betting shops, what do you think will set BoyleSports apart from established competitors?
Like every city, because of the size, it is not a single homogenous betting market, but a number of collective, but individual localities – all nine of the ex-Lewis bet shops trade in different towns/suburbs and compete on a local level with the proximate betting shops.
This is where the improved physical facilities and enhanced trading facilities will grow market share and give customers more of what they want and deserve.
Is there anything in particular about Manchester that makes it an ideal location for retail betting? For example, the presence of major local sports teams and a thriving entertainment/leisure scene.
It is a large vibrant city and as mentioned an area that we were previously underrepresented, so we look forward to providing the BoyleSports experience to new and existing customers in those locations.
Is this indicative of your continued confidence in UK and Irish retail and its long-term sustainability? Is the sector still worth the cost in the face of online growth?
Absolutely, like all operators we have seen the levels of business bounce back post-COVID, this is because betting shops are social environments where like-minded people share their leisure time. A different experience to on-line which has happily co-existed for almost two decades now. Both strands are very important to the business.
How significant is an omni-channel offering to your retail experience and ensuring strong cross-over between online and bricks-and-mortar?
Like most major operators with both a retail and an online presence, it is important to us to provide BoyleSports customers with the ability to choose whether they go to a shop in person and spend time with us, or whether the convenience of betting on-line is preferable.
Shops don’t trade 24 hours and ensuring that we are there to cater for the demand of customers outside trading hours is an important provision and service, ensuring that bettors can still get the BoyleSports experience and trading package.
BoyleSports previously acquired Tully Bookmakers in Ireland. Is M&A a central part of your retail expansion plan?
Not a central part, but certainly one of several strands. We will always look at and discuss potential opportunities with any group looking to dispose of either retail or digital assets whether in the UK, Ireland or new markets internationally (for example the acquisition of Timberazo in Peru), as we are as keen to grow the BoyleSports brand now as we ever have been.
To read an in depth interview with Lee Otter covering BoyleSports’ approach to retail and omni-channel betting, click HERE