JJB Sports, the struggling U.K. sporting goods chain, has named David Jones, the former chief executive of U.K. fashion chain Next, as executive chairman. Peter Williams, the former chief executive of the Selfridges U.K. department store, has also been appointed executive director with responsibility for the group’s strategic development.


Jones, who earns credit for rescuing Next from collapse in the late 1980s and rebuilding it, was already deputy chairman of JJB Sports and is also non-executive chairman of Shop Direct Group, which owns the Littlewoods fashion retail group. Roger Lane-Smith, the current chairman, will become deputy chairman, reporting to David. Chris Ronnie will remain chief executive.


Jones, who was knighted this week, said: “We are facing the most difficult retail environment I have ever experienced but I am looking forward to working with Chris and Peter and the rest of the executive team to re-establish JJB as a major force in the sportswear market.”


Lane-Smith said: “At this time our priorities are to focus totally on our retail business and to strengthen our executive team. Sir David's move to executive chairman and Peter's appointment have my entire support.”


Ronnie said: “I have the highest regard for Sir David and look forward to working with Sir David, Peter and the rest of the team.”


JJB has been struggling with weak sales and liquidity issues. In December, it reported that total group comparable store sales decreased 7.5% compared to last year for the period between July 28 and Dec. 7, 2008. This decrease consisted of a 6.7% increase in revenue for health clubs and an 8.9% decrease in retail sales. At the same time, company's lenders, Barclays, HBOS and Kaupthing waived the Dec. 14 due date on  the Kaupthing £20 million bridging facility, in exchange for JJB’s agreement to repay the note on a pro rata basis starting Dec. 10.


JJB also has been in talks over the possible sale of its 50 fitness clubs after receiving several enquiries, including one from founder and former chairman David Whelan.


JJB operates from approximately 317 JJB stores, eight Clearance stores, 61 Original Shoe Company stores and 24 Qube stores in the U.K.