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