The year saw the landscape of sporting goods retail shift dramatically as the industry gained its second legitimate national sporting goods retailer after Dicks acquired Galyans. As they go head-to-head with The Sports Authority in more regions of the country, the industry will see a Home Depot/Lowes scenario play out that will keep everyone tuned to this station for the foreseeable future.
Complicating the story a bit is the rapid emergence and potential over-retailing of the outdoor recreation retail marketplace. With both Cabelas and Gander Mountain going public in 2004, Bass Pro is the only one of the big three left to pull the public trigger. Other players like Sportsmans Warehouse and even Sportsmans Guide could get gobbled in the process that sees the hunting categories get more attention than the business probably warrants.
Sport Chalet took its expertise in outdoor and winter sports and expanded north to greener (and whiter) pastures. At last word, the Southern California-based retailer was finding NorCal very friendly to its format and product mix.
On the outdoor specialty front, the industry lost one of the top three on many a vendors list of key accounts when Galyans ceased to exist, a loss that will certainly impact a number of apparel and equipment brands that relied on the retailer for volume.
The MBO at Eastern Mountain Sports is the first step in a re-positioning for the EMS brand. Management, which partnered with JH Whitney in the deal, is eyeing a 7,500 sf format that is much more focused on a “seamless integration” between the brick and mortar stores, the on-line store and the re-launched 188-page “cata-zine.” EMS sees a shift in the next year to more equipment, and is expected to be “narrowly focused” on the outdoor athlete, a dramatic shift from the old strategy at EMS where the company was trying to appeal to a broader casual outdoor audience.
EMS isnt the only retailer focused on the opportunities that the Internet offers. Backcountry.com changed its name, dropping the “store” at mid-year and went on to rack up a number of “best of” awards throughout the year on their way to a record Holiday season. BC.C launched out an online outlet store in 2004 and a spin-off ski site made its way to the Web before year-end.
The Sportsmans Guide is also picking up a bigger piece of its business off the Web, with 41% of its Q3 business generated off of the Internet versus 36% in the year-ago period. REI found a new way to spike Internet sales by developing a order on-line/pick-up in-store program that helped boost REI.com sales 18%, while REI-Outlet.com posted a 50% gain. REI said that 38% of all REI-outlet.com and 16% of all REI.com orders come through the program.