The first Sportsgirl stores were opened in 1948 in Melbourne, as a younger, more fun alternative to the more conservative sister label Sportscraft. Since that time, the Sportsgirl brand has grown from a few boutique stores to a major Australian fashion brand.
1940s and 1950s
The first Sportsgirl store was opened in 1948 in Swanston Street, Melbourne, by the Bardas family. The Bardas family was also manufacturers of the Sportscraft clothing label, sold through department stores. At the time of opening the Swanston Street store, the Bardas family had no other retail outlets.
In 1956, the year of the Melbourne Olympics, the rent on the Swanston Street property was raised and the family moved the Sportsgirl shop to Collins Street, Melbourne. In 1959, the Bardas family purchased this property when it came onto the market, and the acquisition of this prominent flagship site became a significant element in Sportsgirl's retailing and business strategy.
Sportsgirl gradually grows a network of stores in Melbourne, specialising in providing the latest fashion trends from overseas. It offers younger women a livelier option than its more conservative sibling label Sportscraft.
In the 1960s, Sportsgirl emerged as a leader in the Australian fashion industry by successfully developing a brand image and a store identity that moved fashion retail away from the concept of established department stores to the concept of the lifestyle fashion boutique.
As well as carefully choosing overseas imports, Sportsgirl sourced its fashion lines from young Australian designers. It also employed heavy use of print advertising and merchandising display to create a Sportsgirl identity that linked its clothing lines to a set of lifestyle values and accessories.
In 1960, Sportsgirl opened a Sydney flagship store on Pitt Street.
In the 1970s, Sportsgirl continued opening stores in locations throughout Australia. It continued its heavy use of mass advertising through print and media advertising that linked fashion with lifestyle images.
Sportsgirl adopts the developing methods of mass marketing. It capitalises on the power of linking fashion with exciting images.
Sportsgirl advertising campaigns and its own in-store magazines combine attention grabbing photography with memorable slogans and lifestyle concepts.
Sportsgirl uses special events, in-store parades and promotions to pump excitement into fashion.
Internationally acclaimed illustrator Antonio is brought to Australia by Sportsgirl, who use his drawings to promote a ground breaking parade/event held in two circus tents.
Make-up artists Way Bandy and Regis are brought to Australia to give public demonstrations of the latest fashion looks.
Sportsgirl blazes through as one of the first fashion retailers to sell homewares, body and beauty products.
By the 1980s, Sportsgirl had over 100 stores throughout Australia.
The Melbourne and Sydney flagship stores opened their own in-store cafes.
Frontline (not to be confused with the television series of the same name) is launched as Sportsgirl’s very own magazine.
Healthworks cafes open in Melbourne and Sydney flagship stores. Sportsgirl picked up on the concept of Lifestyle and had in-store cafes long before other retailers.
Flagship stores include an in-store travel club.
Sportsgirl cosmetics and perfumes are launched.
Sportsgirl stocks fledgling Australian designers and labels. Many of them go on to become fashion industry stars including Prue Acton, Trent Nathan, Norma Tullo, Simona and Country Road.
Many Sportsgirl employees go on to make their own mark within the industry, such as Craig Kimberley, founder of Just Jeans.
A department within Sportsgirl called Bigi in the hottest young fashion, especially PM wear. Bigi took its name from Bergdorf Goodman, the famous US department store.
Many label subsidiaries to Sportsgirl are launched, including David Lawrence, Elle B, SG Essentials, Metro, Bush Telegraph.
The Sportsgirl network grows Australia wide to number over 100 stores.
1991, Sportsgirl opens the beautiful and expensive ($180 million) Sportsgirl Centre in Collins Street. In Melbourne 1994, a change in the economic climate forces the company to sell the Sportsgirl Centre.
David Bardas leaves the company and it is sold to an alliance of South African company Truworths and Australian Frank Whitford, managing director of Sportsgirl.
Stores are opened in New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand. Expansion continues despite difficult retailing conditions. Labels Sportscraft, Sportsgirl and David Lawrence are split into separate stores, and new store fit-outs are implemented across Australia.
Substantial investment is made in developing the profiles of the individual brands. Sportsgirl lures supermodel Claudia Schiffer to appear in the Sportsgirl parade at the Melbourne Fashion Festival.
In early 1999 Whitford’s offer to buy out Truworths fails and in late 1999 the Sportsgirl Sportscraft Group is sold in pieces.
In 2000 and under new management by the Sussan Corporation, Sportsgirl launches a new look for its stores, with the first unveiled at Chadstone shopping centre in Melbourne.
Sportsgirl launches its new connection campaign ‘make your own way there’ ditching the traditional ‘ideal women’ image for real and risqué images including tattoos, naked women on horseback and women kissing. A revamped and irreverent Sportsgirl website experience is unleashed onto the Internet.
Sportsgirl creates a real, fun and memorable experience for its audience both in-store and beyond.
2007 - Sportsgirl launched its rewind range. It brought back some of its classic pieces from the 80s such as the Sportsgirl logo tee, beach towels and duffle bags which were iconic for the label.
2009 - Sportsgirl launches the label 'Romance Was Born' in stores featuring music from Melbourne indie/electro band Neon Knights (band)
2012 - Sportsgirl unveiled its latest digital strategy the ‘window shop’ a concept which allows for 24/7 shopping where products are displayed on the shopfront’s windows, and customers can scan the products QR code with their smartphone or iPad to make an immediate purchase. Sportsgirl appoints Tailor Maid Communications to cover the companies media and press enquiries.
- "Sportsgirl unveils ‘window shop’". Fashion Source (Melbourne). 17 February 2012.