Monday, February 8, 2016

Sports Authority No Longer THE Sports Authority? .

The game may soon be over for popular sporting goods chain.

According to a recent Bloomberg report, Englewood, Colorado based Sports Authority is reportedly taking steps towards a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.  The retailer is reportedly in talks with lenders on a reorganization plan under which it would close as many as 200 of its more than 450 stores, the report said.

The Sports Authority, Inc. was founded in Lakes Mall in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida.  The first store opened in November 1973 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

Like Waldenbooks, OfficeMax and Borders Books & Music, The Sports Authority was for a time (1990-1995)  owned by Kmart.  Today, the chain is owned by Leonard Green & Partners, a Los Angeles-based private equity firm.  

Gart Sports, which traces its roots to 1928 in Denver, merged with The Sports Authority in 2003. At the time of its merger with Gart Sports Company, The Sports Authority was the largest full-line sporting goods retailer in the United States, and had 205 stores in 33 states. The combined company took the Sports Authority name. The combined company was headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, the home of Gart Sports.

(Gart Capital Partners, a private equity firm, started by Gart Sports family members, bought Atlanta based Swoozie's out of bankruptcy in 2010.)  

Sports Authority operates eleven locations in Georgia including stores in Buckhead, Kennesaw, Sandy Springs, Buford, Northlake and Cumberland.  

Sports Authority anchored shopping centers in Buckhead and Northlake are both  named for the retailer: Sports Authority Village Northlake and The Sports Authority Center in Buckhead.  The chain dropped "the" from its logo years ago but some locations still feature the outdated branding in some areas of the store.  

The Sports Authority Center on Peachtree Road  in Buckhead 
Sports Authority, once a dominant name in sporting goods and apparel, has been hit hard by the likes of Dick's Sporting Goods via bricks & mortar and Amazon via eCommerce.

Dick's entered the metro Atlanta market in 2004 via its purchase of Galyan's  Trading Company.  Galyan's had opened three giant stores in Kennesaw, Buckhead and Buford at the Mall of Georgia in 1999.  Since the Galyan's acquisition, Dick's has continued to expand in metro Atlanta, adding a number of new stores over the recent years, including stores in Alpharetta and East Cobb.  Today, Dick's operates ten locations in the greater metro Atlanta area with its eleventh store coming soon to Tucker.  

Academy Sports + Outdoors operates 14 stores in Georgia but unlike Sports Authority and Dick's, Academy specializes in smaller markets.  Academy operates no stores inside the perimeter, and instead cultivates markets like McDonough, Newnan, Snellville and Warner Robins.  

Sports Authority launched  "S.A. elite" in 2010, a concept store which I visited on Long Island, New York.  Less than a half mile from a full-line store,  S.A. Elite was described as a "small store concept designed to meet the needs of the elite sporting goods consumer while providing a unique and compelling shopping experience."  The stores were described as being 12,000-15,000 square feet despite the one I visited being just shy of 20,000 square feet.  Clearly this was an attempt for the brand to capture a greater share of the lucrative premium products market with a smaller space.
The original S.A. elite store at Cherry Creek Mall in Denver 
As of last year, all existing S.A. elite stores, of which I'm told there were nine, were converted to "small format" Sports Authority stores.  Interestingly, the store on Long Island, still answers the phone "S.A. Elite" but is actually "Sports Authority Westbury Outlet" according to both its website and salespeople.  

Aside from competition, many sports marketing observers say the retailer's decision to sign a rich naming rights agreement in Denver may have overextended them financially.   In 2011, Sports Authority agreed to pay $60 million over ten years for naming rights to Mile High Stadium in Denver.  The stadium, home of the Super Bowl 50 winning Denver Broncos, was previously known as Invesco Field.  Today the stadium is known as "Sports Authority Field at Mile High."  
Where do you shop for sporting goods?  Do you, like me, miss the three story rock climbing wall at Galyan's Dick's in Buckhead? What local Sports Authority stores do you think the retailer will close?

Please share your thoughts below.  


Ham said...

I too liked the Galyan’s in Buckhead, but never really went much after the ownership change. I did shop at Sports Authority for a time, but they seemed to become very “run down” looking and the mix of merchandise/service seemed to slip. Recently I’ve been shopping at Academy Sports and have been very pleased with the overall experience.

ImAndy said...

All these category killer stores are on the bleak of extinction. I was in an Office Depot store on Sunday and it was so dirty and run down. I hope I was able to help them with my $1.35 purchase of a box. Same with Toys R US they are so dirty and neglected. Sports Authority, Petco, petsmart are all in the same boat sadly.

Anonymous said...

I live closest to Academy Sports and don't like them for clothing and shoes. Their selection is the near the bottom in the lines that they carry. I go to Sports Authority, then Dick's for the best selection in (sports) clothing and shoes. I get that brick and mortar stores are losing favor but clothing and shoes are things I must see and try on before I buy. If the store doesn't have my size then I order online. Really hate that Sports Authority is probably closing but agree some of these stores are so dirty, unorganized and under merchandised its like they are telling their customers they have been telling their customers goodbye for a while now.

vespajet said...

I remember when Sports Authority took over and rebranded several Sportstown locations in the Atlanta area when that chain went bankrupt in the mid-90s. I actually preferred Sportstown to Sports Authority when it came to camping equipment (I just couldn't afford to buy all of my camping equipment at REI.). I remember when Gander Mountain and Cabela's were more or less regional outdoors chains out in the Midwest and most folks ordered from them via mail order.

The Sports Authority location near me closed at some point last year with nary a peep about it closing. It was a pretty crappy store and had been for the last 5-7 years it was open.

Anonymous said...

I think they will close the Northlake location. I stopped shopping there years ago.

Anonymous said...

it would have served then well if they had employees that where knowledgeable and at least tried to help you with your shopping needs. Most times I have gone in the Northlake location, the employees would barely raise their head and grunt...

jeff a. taylor said...

I've gone to the SA in Cumberland a good bit as some specialized gear you can't buy without a good, long eye-ball and the stock was always pretty deep and wide. But everything else was weak -- staffing, check out, only OK prices etc. That location however may well survive just based on its proximity to the new Bravesworld. Provided rents are not hiked thru the roof for so-so space.

396 said...

The last few times I went to the SA in Buckhead the place was badly understaffed compared to the way I remember it a few years ago. I rarely got any answer other than "I don't know" to any question. These weren't crazy questions either. Just whether they carried a certain thing or where something was in the store or the relative merits of one brand versus another. Nor was the "I don't know" generally followed up with an offer to find out. The one person I saw on the sales floor the last time I was there looked away and headed off in another direction as soon as I made eye contact with him, lest I ask him a question. Dick's isn't really much better in that regard, though. They're obviously not willing to spend the money to adequately staff that huge store.

Workout attire and exercise equipment are things I'd rather not buy online because they need to be tried on, picked up and handled before buying, not to mention that the shipping charge on something like a medicine ball or a kettlebell is downright comical. The big box sporting goods stores have less competition than ever as other chains have gone out of business or closed stores, but they seem determined to send themselves down the same road as City Sports.

Furban8 said...

I actually had no idea Sports Authority was still around which I think says it all.