A PR gaffe or a rare moment of corporate honesty? JD Sports boss Peter Cowgill said the looting which cost the retailer £700,000 worth of stock showed "there is a strong demand for our products on the high street".
His quote has since tickled enough Twitter users to go viral. But while it might have raised a few smiles, will JD's PR team be kicking themselves that a flippant comment has overshadowed the fact that the sportswear firm is actually one of the best performing retailers on the high street?
Cowgill's quote came on the same day the firm announced that it had recorded a pre-tax profit of £20.1 million in the 26 weeks up to July 30th.
Paul Smith, a crisis management specialist at PR agency Citypress, told The Drum: "It’s probably ill-advised but it’s not a Gerald Ratner moment. I don’t think he’s going to lose any sleep over it.
“If you were Hugo Boss saying that the looters kicked in your windows because you’re an aspirational brand no one would’ve blinked.
“JD has a good message about being one of the top performing retailers. If I were doing the PR debrief I’d say you haven’t done any long-term damage to the brand but you have detracted from a positive news story.”
We asked our Twitter followers whether they thought it was a PR blunder or refreshing to see someone from the corporate world speak so candidly. Here's what they said:
Definitely stupid PR; 1. the clothes are only worth stealing, not buying, or 2. the people that want them are thieves? #nosense – @NPAPryke
I think they are trying to raise their profile to the wider market! Good PR amongst a destructive subject! – @bdaily_info
It's not great PR OR brand damaging - can't see it as a 'Ratner' moment (though it shares its refreshing honesty) – @PierrePolarBear
JD Sports' comment 'great PR or dragging the brand down' @TheDrum -the latter; cognitive associations between to two will be damaging – @TheMediaBear
I think the only phrase to sum up the JD Sports comment is 'Brand association!' – @JcooperCreative
Funny comment but probably not the best image to portray for the company. Will drag the brands down if it is associated with riots – @amyh1990
Depends: if it's a 'preaching to the converted' strategy - well OK but will not attract new audiences without that 'aspiration'. – @KatWaters
Ha! Absolutely ridiculous! – @eoenrodgers
Option C - a damning profile of their average customer? – @casearLopez
Ryan Air school of comms – @londoncharlotte
maybe they should look in to some market research on their main customer base in the stolen market. – @Kristen_Rice