I foolishly took a trip into central London on Saturday, to try and find a new cricket bat at Lillywhites. As I’ve been abroad for the past few years and only recently returned to the UK, I didn’t know that the store had undergone some severe changes.

Suffice to say it is not a rewarding experience - particularly for anyone looking for sporting equipment rather than clothing, and for anyone with a pram. It's so full you can hardly get down the aisles, and the one lift it has doesn't go to all floors...

Anyway, this unhappiness could have been avoided, of course, if Lillywhites had its own website and I’d been able to check its selection beforehand.

Currently, if you type Lillywhites.co.uk into your browser, you reach a site under maintenance, belonging to its parent company Sports World. If you do a search for Lillywhites on Google.co.uk, it’s not even top for its own brand.

If you do some digging around and find out it’s owned by Sports World and that it is planning to rebrand as sportsdirect.com, you can go to that site. But it doesn’t have a bespoke section for Lillywhites and it’s not very good.

Market Share of UK Internet Searches

Of course, there’s no point going into the business case for launching a website or the size of the etailing market. But it's hard to imagine how such a big brand could be doing such a bad job on the net.

Currently, the first page a consumer sees after searching for Lillywhites on Google is one on UrbanPath.com, where it’s called “a disgrace” and “a joke” by people that have been there. JD Sports is also among the competitors that are mopping up a lot of that traffic by bidding on the ‘lillywhites’ term.

Heather Hopkins from Hitwise gave us some more detail on the retailer's internet issues: 

  • In December, Halfords and M&M Sports, the #1 and #2 ranked retail sports sites, received more than 200 times the share of visits that sportsdirect received.
  • Last week, Urbanpath started to receive more traffic from searches for 'lillywhites' than any of the Lillywhites-related websites. However, in the four weeks to 30th December 2006, 22.67% of searches for 'lillywhites' went to lillywhites.co.uk and 22.35% to Urbanpath.
  • sportsdirect, until recently, received a lower volume of searches than Lillywhites, underscoring the need to protect the brand (to prevent competitors such as JD Sports from bidding on the term) and to optimise the website to receive visits from the term.

Market share - UK internet visits


Published 9 January, 2007 by Richard Maven

529 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (4)



I do not see Lillywhites remaining as it is..

Lillywhite's used to be an "upmarket" sports equipment store. A centre of excellence. If you wanted sporting equipment and good advice.. this was the place to come.

I went there recently and it has become a sports clothing store, catering the masses that want a cheap pair of white trainers and a sports top. I am pretty sure EVERYTHING in the store was discounted or on sale. The aisles are so narrow, that you pretty much brush against every rack you pass.

There is too mch competition from the "niche" sports store.. such as JD Sports (shoes and clothes), SIZE (designer trainers), Snow & Rock (winter sports).. that Lillywhites cannot compete on range alone..

I am not knocking the fact that the store may be making money.. or if you want cheap clothes.. but this is NOT the Lillywhites of old..

over 11 years ago



Lillywhites has been rubbish for at least 20 years and I'm amazed it didn't close years ago. When I was younger (in the 70's) I didn't go there because it was so stuffy. Now I don't go because it's so vile. I have tried to shop there with my children but after two minutes we felt claustrophobic and had to leave. I shall be getting my cricket boots elsewhere...

about 11 years ago



Ah LillyWhites. A very cheap place to get sports goodies. But it is incredibly busy. Be prepared for the crowds, so you need to be very relaxed and de-stressed before you enter the shop. Try deep breathing and thinking of a beach. People will push into you - and you may get squashed - it's all part of the LillyWhites culture.

But at the end of the day, Lilly whites is cheap and cheerful, and the staff work incredibly hard.


almost 11 years ago


Phil Cole

This store is not only poorly laid out - the staff:customer relationship is awful! I was met with very poor manners by a member of their staff and when i mentioned this to a "manager" at the tills he laughed! So I wrote a letter to the store manager - 2 months later no reply. In the interim period i sent a copy of this letter to "Customer Service" at their head Office. Again, no reply. Apparently, Lillywhites have no desire to offer any level of customer service, merely to pile it high and sell it cheap. A very poor reflection on British retailing. I will NOT shop in the Piccadilly store again and would not reccomend it to anyone.

over 10 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.