Golfsmith’s Thompson to Steer Performance, Inc.
Bicycle retailer Performance, Inc. has named Jim Thompson-who previously guided Golfsmith International Holdings Inc. through its IPO-as CEO. The move comes after Performance was acquired last July by private equity firm North Castle Partners.

Garry Snook, who assumed CEO duties prior to Thompson’s appointment, remains active in the organization as chairman and continues to be a significant shareholder. Snook co-founded Performance out of his basement in 1982. The company now boasts more than 80 stores in 15 states, as well as two substantial online stores, making it the largest specialty retailer dedicated to cycling.

Performance’s annual sales are an estimated $225 million, and Thompson sees substantial growth ahead for the multi-channel retailer.

“Whether people cycle for enjoyment, as a means of fitness, or out of concern for the environment, the number of people cycling each year is increasing and Performance Bicycle is well poised to serve as their retailer of choice,” Thompson notes.

Thompson has more than 25 years of experience in retailing-mostly in the consumer electronics sector with companies including Highland Superstores, CompUSA and Circuit City. During his five-year tenure as Golfsmith’s president CEO, he was responsible for the company’s overall management including development and implementation of its operating plan, strategic direction, and talent. Prior to taking the top position, he served for four years as SVP of merchandising and retail operations at Golfsmith.

Thomson tells SGB that the similarities between Golfsmith and Performance are profound. For example, both companies were founded as catalog operations by entrepreneurs who placed a premium on customer service, ethics and employee welfare. In addition, both businesses are positioned to take advantage of today’s multi-channel retail environment.

“My expertise has been to build specialty sports businesses around this multi-channel platform,” Thompson says. “I am attracted to businesses that have avid followings. People who golf are very passionate. For them, it’s not a sport; it’s a lifestyle. The same can be said of cycling.”

Thompson has long thought that catalog companies are in the best position to serve today’s customers because they have the fulfillment and customer service expertise needed to sell online. Catalogs also provide an important communication and branding tool to drive people to the web and to brick-and-mortar stores.

Thompson downplays his experience in bringing Golfsmith public. “I did not come here to build a company and take it public,” he says. “My real interest is in the company going from the entrepreneurial phase to the professional phase.” Still, he believes that his experience in dealing with Wall Street and knowing how investors think has made him a better leader.

Like many in the outdoor industry, Thompson believes that rising gas prices and growing concerns regarding sustainability are working in cycling’s favor. Toward this end, Performance will focus on ways to make cycling a more significant part of communities and commuting.

“Performance is so well positioned in the market,” Thompson says. “They have an excellent balance from a product standpoint of brands and proprietary offerings. It’s a very forward-plan merchandising team. They’ve understood that in a difficult economy, the consumer is expecting a high degree of value rather than brand.”

In recent years, Performance has shed some high-end brands and deepened its relationship with a narrower list of labels, including Pacific Cycle’s Schwinn, GT and Mongoose, as well as Scattante and Nirve. Although Thompson declines to discuss whether Performance will add any brands, he notes that the company is dedicated to meeting the needs of the entire cycling market, from affluent enthusiast to families and casual users.

“We are truly a specialty cycling business that is not leaving any core segment of space underserved,” Thompson says.