No Surprise, Sports Authority Teeters on Bankruptcy

Sports Authority misses interest payment

Update. Since this post was written, Sports Authority has since filed for bankruptcy protection…

Sports Authority, the Englewood, Colorado based sporting goods apparel and equipment mega-store has missed an interest payment on debt and bankruptcy is rumored. I can’t say this news surprises me.

What blows me away is that they are in the two hottest sectors of the apparel and footwear industries, athletic apparel and sneakers and couldn’t capitalize on it. We are in a multi-year athleisure trend, the wearing of sports apparel in and out of the gym, disrupting casual apparel and knocking even the venerable jeans business down a peg or two.

What’s wrong at Sports Authority?

Sports Authority is a big store with an enormous selection of sporting goods and apparel. The stores are dimly lit and cavernous, sort of like a warehouse club without the bright lighting, wide aisles and good deals. A visit to Sports Authority means walking long distances through a sea of me-too sweats and hoodies. There are no clear paths or sight lines. They are located in suburban settings, not particularly convenient for those key Millennial shoppers without easy transportation.

For a carrying products that consumers use in the happiest times of their lives, this store is seriously, no fun. They have tons of stuff, allowing little room for discovery. Great retail is emotional theater and Sports Authority falls flat. Bad music, poor lighting, safe selections, old technology and no creative displays. You are on a self-guided tour of a depressing warehouse. They try to be everything to everybody. They are water on the camp fire.

They could benefit from about 50% less SKUS and some focus on the hottest lines and equipment. Too much inventory and no foot traffic = missed loan payment. This store gives equal billing to down-trending golf product as red-hot sneaker lines. Their relatively small sneaker assortment in relation to their size, abdicates the business to mall competitors like Champs and Foot Locker.

The apparel assortment is the retail equivalent of safe-sex, run of the mill products from most of the usual suspects. Why not take a chance on some of the upstart creative athletic brands, mostly found online? Why not an area for discovery of new brands? How about some exclusives? Champion looks way better at Target. “Move on folks, nothing to see here.”

Where’s the creativity to drive traffic? How about fitness demonstrations, classes and athlete appearances? Healthy free snacks? Basketball half-court? Equipment testing areas? Contests? New lighting?  Hip music? You get the picture. Give up some SKUS to free up the dollars for the fun quotient. Tug at my emotions.

All retailers exist in a highly competitive environment today. Consumers are seeking the best experiences for their dollar. Whether it is a simple transaction on Amazon or a red-carpet experience at Neiman’s. They seek rewarding and entertaining retail experiences.

Bauer “Own The Moment” Experience Store

Sadly for Sports Authority, today was the day I decided to visit the new Own The Moment Hockey Experience Store by Bauer (Performance Sports Group, Exeter, NH), in Burlington, MA. My advice to any hockey store within a 100 mile radius, it’s time to retire. This store is state-of-the art retail theater at it’s finest. I see a lot of retail stores and this one takes my breath away. In fact, I just may learn to skate.

There is a huge selection of thoughtfully placed equipment and apparel in beautiful displays with spot halogen lighting. Halogen has a way of making things more precious. It’s like a futuristic hockey museum, with wide spacious aisles from front to back and in between. Everything is precisely displayed. You are intrigued to wander around corners, each area more enticing than the last.  In addition to a big open video viewing area, they even have an in-store ice rink for testing the latest equipment. They offer everything hockey for men, women and kids.

They truly capture the powerful athleticism of the sport. The testosterone soaked displays, images and edgy mannequins, got my heart racing. Who is that bearded guy anyway? Who knew hockey equipment could be so damn compelling?

A destination to visit, this store is an outstanding example of retail as entertainment.

The Dix & Pond Blog is the blog of  Dix & Pond Consulting,  a Boston-based, company that consults on trend and creative direction, brand experience and business strategy, product development, merchandising and provides executive coaching for retail, apparel, footwear & consumer products companies.  CONTACT US TODAY!  or call 617.733.7411

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