The twin failures of Sports Authority and Sport Chalet is not about weak consumer spending or traditional merchants’ growing competition from online shopping.
This is a tale about the slow, agonizing death of the concept of a supermarket selling anything but groceries.
Sports Authority and Sport Chalet – with in a combined 59 stores in the region – will both be shut and liquidated through their respective owners’ bankruptcies because shoppers no longer needed sporting good chains that specialized in offering a little bit of everything.
Sporting goods is a growing, $60 billion-plus business. Competitors collectively outflanked Sports Authority and Sport Chalet with wider selection, deeper knowledge and better pricing. It was only a relatively robust consumer revival out of the recession that kept Sports Authority and Sport Chalet alive this long.
My general feeling when I wandered the aisles at both chains was something between general indifference and a fact-finding mission. Occasionally my athletic imagination was tweaked, but the sizing, style, color or pricing wasn’t right. So my wallet stayed shut.
The financial failures of the two chains should tell you my thoughts were not unique. Here are five reasons you probably no longer shopped at Sports Authority and Sport Chalet.
Today, you just don’t play a sport or participate in an athletic endeavor. You relish it.
That likely means you need an intense level of equipment and/or apparel. It’s a sold hunch that your sporting niche probably has one store, or small chain, that specializes in just that activity. Or you shop online at myfavoritesport.com or the like.
That decision is rarely about price. You’ll likely pay up for that level of commitment. Talk about business opportunity!
It’s Retail 101: A store offering a broad array of sporting goods can never compete with the one-sport shop.
Just look at my two kids who play lacrosse. They’d never think of Sports Authority and Sport Chalet for their gear.
I’m not talking Nordstrom’s level of customer care, or even Costco in its own way.
The staffs at Sports Authority and Sport Chalet that I encountered were pleasant enough. But if your goal is to be all-things sports to all people – as Sports Authority and Sport Chalet attempted – what selling edge can really be offered to most customers?
Yes, there were certain departments at each chain where the sales staff offered high-performance advice. But that same salesperson also had to service other aisles, too. There, to be frank, they often added nothing to the shopping experience.
Not to mention, think of the cash spent on the many services offered to participants in today’s many sports niches – from educational clinics to equipment set-up or repair.
Providing that kind of assistance is a profitable business – often using goods sold in that same specialty shop. These kinds of services are largely outside of the scope of the abilities of many broad-based chains like Sports Authority and Sport Chalet.
That’s profitable business – often using goods sold in that same specialty shop – that’s frequently outside the abilities of many broad-based chains like Sports Authority and Sport Chalet.
There was an era when the maker of goods would never compete with the sellers.
That’s ancient history in sporting goods where the top names in athletic wear that stock the aisles of sporting goods with apparel also have their own branded stores selling much of the same stuff at your favorite local mall.
Nike. Adidas. Under Armour. To name a few. And then think about the likes of Lululemon and the entire fitness-wear craze. Even sports teams have their own retail stores.
So what does your local sporting goods superstore offer, other than perhaps a convenient, nearby location when you want to buy your favorite brand of apparel.
Price? Sports Authority and Sport Chalet rarely had super bargains.
We may not want to admit it, but shopping has become part of life’s entertainment.
Unless we’re hurried and seeking a deep discount, the look and feel of a store matters.
I’m not much of an outdoors gear kind of guy, but I love visiting something like an over-the-top, decked-out Bass Pro Shop or enjoy the energy that many of the athletic brand shops contain.
Yes, Sports Authority and Sport Chalet stores were perfectly acceptable. Like vanilla ice cream.
However, there’s was no retailing magic to save these sinking ships.
Let’s be frank. Many retail genres will become thin niches, with probably one major brand surviving. Think bookstores. Think Barnes & Noble.
I’ll bet on Dick’s as the sporting goods supermarket most likely to succeed.
Yes, Dick’s has many of the same challenges as Sports Authority and Sport Chalet – too many products they cannot adequately support. But there’s this intangible look-and-feel of Dick’s that put it a notch ahead of soon-to-be-liquidated Sports Authority and Sport Chalet.
Or, perhaps it’s my family’s own bias.
Dick’s East Coast roots mean they sort of understand the fast-growing lacrosse business. Sort of.
So at least Dick’s could get a Lansner to visit, walk the lacrosse aisle … and then go buy something else.
Ah, the dilemma of a sporting goods mass marketer.
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