By Thomas J. Ryan

A majority of retailers in the active lifestyle space have temporarily closed stores to fight the spread of the coronavirus. However, a number of chains, including Academy Sports, Camping World, Hibbett Sports and Scheels, are working to keep most of their stores open, albeit with restrictions.

The following is a summation of store operating status for some of the major retailers in the active lifestyle space.

Academy Sports + Outdoors in a letter to customers on March 30 said that almost all of its stores and all three of its distribution centers remain open for business. The retailer said it has been determined to be an essential retailer by several CISA sector standards. Various tools, batteries, (auto and small home batteries), flashlights, generators, tires, ropes, shelters, grills, cooking fuel and other items sold by Academy assist first responders and customers as they prepare for peak severe weather season in the southwest region. First aid supplies such as first aid kits, trauma kits, clotting kits, snake bite kits and more; gloves in latex, rubber and suede; and food, water and nutrition products also help people not only during the pandemic but with general health and safety of residences, persons and pets. Academy is taking numerous steps to protect customers and employees in stores, including limiting the number of customers allowed in the store at one time, posting social distancing signs throughout the stores, offering curbside pickup, and modifying store hours to allow extra time for store cleaning.

Bass Pro appears to have closed about a third of its stores in cooperation with local government officials. Numerous steps are being taken to keep in-store customers and employees safe, including limiting the number of customers to 50 or less at one time, opening an hour earlier each day for senior citizens and other “high-risk” individuals, limiting store hours and scaling back in-store activities, and increased the frequency and intensity of cleaning and disinfecting throughout stores. Twenty-two store locations have added free curbside pick-up.

Big 5 Sporting Goods noted that beginning on March 20, the company has closed more than one-half of its locations in response to state and local shelter orders related to the COVID-19 outbreak. On its website, the West-coast chain noted that New Mexico, Las Vegas and Northern Nevada, and some California stores are temporarily closed although select stores in California remain open. The company’s e-commerce business is continuing.

Camping World, along with sister banners, Gander Outdoors and Overtons remain open. Camping World said in a statement on its website, “For many customers, your RV is your home, and we know you depend on us to provide essential products and services that are critical to keep your home functioning and safe. Whether those essential needs are cleaning, safety, sanitation, replacement, or essential operation of your RV, in this time of uncertainty, we are here for you. We will continue to evaluate conditions on a market by market basis, but our goal is to remain open in a safe and healthy environment to provide the essential products and services needed to keep you and your home safe and healthy. The most up-to-date store hours can always be found on Overtons.com, CampingWorld.com, and GanderOutdoors.com.”

Dick’s Sporting Goods temporarily closed all its doors on March 17 with plans to open on April 2 although that’s been extended. An update on its website reads, “Our temporary store closures remain in effect. Customers can continue to shop via our mobile apps and online and through our new Curbside Contactless Pickup, available at DICK’S and Golf Galaxy locations, seven days a week.”

Dunham’s Sports’ stores in Michigan and Pennsylvania are closed but stores are generally open in the other midwestern states the chain serves. The company is taking extra safety measures to keep stores safe, including adjusting store hours to support enhanced cleaning and sanitization schedules at all stores. Early-opening hours have been added for the elderly and other vulnerable customers. David Lynn, president, Dunham’s Sports, said in a statement, “We greatly appreciate your business and trust as we work through this challenging time. As always, it is our honor to serve you, and the communities in which we operate.”

Eddie Bauer, which has over 275 stores across North America, recently said its stores will remain closed at least through April 26. Damien Huang, president Eddie Bauer, said in a statement, “We will reevaluate the store re-opening schedule as conditions continue to change. We are also following the guidance from local health authorities in any region where there are additional requirements covering retail store operations which may result in longer-term restrictions. Please try to stay healthy and we will emerge from this crisis stronger as a community. We appreciate your patience and understanding during this difficult time, and look forward to helping you Live Your Adventure again soon.”

Fanatics in a March 19 letter from Doug Mack, CEO, said it has temporarily closed 56 retail venues and stores, which includes the NBA Store in New York City. The largest online seller of fan gear also instituted a blanket “work from home” strategy for office employees, prohibited business travel, implemented “social distancing” and extensive sanitizing strategies across all its shipping centers, apparel production facilities and customer service centers. Mack, in the letter, applauded the suspension of sports leagues “as this clearly prioritizes the safety of fans, communities and athletes first.” Mack concluded, “While we have temporarily closed our venue and retail stores – the eCommerce sites we power remain operational and we have never been more committed to serving our fans. In these times of financial uncertainty, we will also strive to provide even more value to you than ever. While all the things we’re doing to prioritize health and safety create a higher degree of difficulty to operate, our team has never been more committed to serving fans and we are all working hard to continue to meet our promised delivery dates.  In the weeks and months ahead, we will let you know any developments that disrupt our ability to serve you well online. I hope you and your family remain safe – and as global governments, institutions, companies and individuals team up to defeat this foe, we can all look forward to brighter days ahead.”

Foot Locker closed its stores across North America on March 17 and in an update on March 30 indicated they would remain closed for the foreseeable future. The sneaker chain also announced a 30-day return extension and warned of potential shipping delays and delays in online returns/exchanges processing. Foot Locker said, “We’re taking every step to process orders, returns, and exchanges as quickly as possible, but we want to protect all associates working in our distribution centers and facilities during this time. Our shipping partners are taking steps to protect their employees as well. This could lead to longer shipping, processing, and delivery times. We’re all in this together and we appreciate your support and understanding.”

Hibbett Sports has reduced hours at some stores and closed others including those affected by Simon Property Group’s decision to shutter its malls. On its fourth-quarter conference call on March 20, Hibbett officials estimated that about 100 of its approximately 1,100 stores had closed and the company planned to keep stores open as long as possible. On its quarterly conference call, Hibbett CEO Mike Longo said the chain’s remote stores have less exposure to major population centers. He added, “We’re also a small-box retailer. That means we don’t have concentrations of a great number of people at any given time in a store as opposed to a big-box retailer, which has a different set of issues. We’re taking a great deal of care in disinfecting surfaces in the stores, practicing social distancing between the staff and the customers, following CDC guidelines and every other common-sense measure that you would imagine an operator would put in place.”

JackRabbit, which operates about 60 running stores, on March 19 indicated it was extending temporary closures of all stores through April 12, or in accordance with the “Stay at Home” order. Bill Kirkendall, CEO, said in a statement, “We feel that this difficult decision is best for the safety of our staff, their families, and all of our communities.” The chain encouraged customers to stay active and promoted its online operations. A Concierge Service enabling customers to call store associates directly for assistance with product reviews, virtual fittings, phone orders, ship direct to their home and, in some locations, curbside pickup. Said Kirkendall, “We encourage everyone to stay safe while also staying active during these unprecedented times. While we’ve had to cancel in-person events for the foreseeable future, we are here for you virtually! Please check out our ‘Sweating Safely’ series from JackRabbit University for home workout ideas or follow us on Instagram (@jackrabbit_original) where we will be sharing workouts to help motivate your daily workout while still social distancing.”

Lids initially temporarily closed some locations and reduced operating hours in others but recently closed all locations. Lids said in a statement on its website, “At Lids, we are concerned about the health and safety of our loyal customers and dedicated associates. We continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and have taken multiple steps across our stores, distribution centers and corporate offices to protect our communities. At this time, all of our locations are temporarily closed. While we will miss sharing our headwear enthusiasm with you in our stores, you can continue to shop online at Lids.com. We are committed to doing our part to help limit the spread of this virus. We appreciate your patience during this time and look forward to serving you when our stores reopen.”

L.L.Bean closed all its doors on March 16 and the closures were extended in a March-28 update. L.L.Bean wrote in the update, “Because our stores will remain closed for the unforeseeable future, we are having to make some difficult decisions. Going forward, we will implement temporary measures such as voluntary unpaid days, extended lack of work programs as well as reduced workweeks and reduced pay for salaried employees across all levels. This will allow us to continue to offer medical coverage for our hardworking employees and help them quickly return to serve our customers when stores are back open and business resumes.”

Lululemon closed all its stores in North America and Europe on March 27 to at least April 5. All store associates are being paid through the period. Calvin McDonald, CEO, said in a statement, “We’re living in unprecedented times and we’re learning more about this virus every day.”

Orvis in a letter on April 1 said all its retail stores would remain closed until further notice. The company’s online store remains open with customer service and fulfillment teams following CDC guidelines. Customer service and distribution staff hours have been reduced with multiple teams working remotely. The retailer asked for patience for any impact on customer service response times and product delivery dates. Orvis’ fulfillment center in Roanoke, VA and rod manufacturing shop in Manchester, VT are manufacturing g masks and medical shields for local health care professionals. Simon Perkins, COO, said, “Thank you for your trust in us. Our relationships with our customers and partners are truly unique and make life meaningful in times like these.”

Paragon Sports on March 17 temporarily closed both its in-store and online operations. The legendary New York City store said, “We will keep you updated as the situation evolves.”

REI Co-op closed all its 162 stores on March 16 with plans to close March 27, but the closures have been extended indefinitely. REI said in a recent update, “We have assembled internal and external teams to advise us on appropriate policies and decisions, and are acting with caution to ensure that we are putting people first. As a result, we are extending our temporary store closures until further notice.”

Schuylkill Valley Sports, which operates 11 stores in eastern Pennsylvania, closed its doors on March 17 and remains closed. Jason Lutz, CEO, said on a Facebook post, “Schuylkill Valley Sports is following Governor Wolfe’s declaration to close all non-essential businesses for a 2-week period. We hope that everyone will practice social distancing and proper hygiene during this time and look forward to seeing everyone come back to us for all their sport and apparel needs once we get through this pandemic. Stay healthy and don’t forget to visit www.svsspports.com!”

Sun & Ski Sports has temporarily closed all of its 31 stores although 25 are offering curbside pickup. The chain is not offering custom boot fittings due to social distancing rules. Specialists are available through e-mail and live chat. Karl Salz, president and COO, said in a statement, “As we move forward, we will continue to monitor new developments that occur near all our locations and the communities in which they operate in order to be able to continue to provide a healthy environment for our associates and our customers.”

Scheels, which has 28 stores, has modified hours and closed some stores in accordance with local guidelines. Curbside, no-contact pick-up was recently rolled out to support social distancing.

Photo courtesy LA Times