Emil GulliaAs the economy continues to stabilize, new trends have unfolded about consumer health habits. A perfect storm is brewing for niche sporting goods retailers as buyers are being mindful about health and reconnecting with the outdoors.
Small industry sporting goods and outdoor companies are taking advantage of the climate and growing their concepts into national chains. This has made it possible for these retailers to grow their footprint and increase sales by being able to offer specialty brands and services to consumer fueling a healthy competitive market.
Evidence of this expanding market trend is found within the growth plans of smaller regional chains such as Olympia Sports, Dunham Sports, and Sport Chalet. National brands such as Gander Mountain, Academy Sports, Dick's Sporting Goods and Cabela's also are reacting to the changing consumer trends and seeing an increase in their growth metrics:
- Academy Sports has been aggressively expanding in the Southeast with new store announcements and has plans to expand its distribution center in North Georgia, adding more than 250 jobs.
- Olympia Sports announced plans to open 25 more stores in 2013.
- Sport Chalet, a chain that has suffered in the past from the economy, is expecting a 15 percent growth in revenue in the next year.
- Cabela's public earnings announcement on July 26, revealed revenue up 56 percent and same store sales are up 4.7 percent.
- Dunham's Sports from Michigan, is expanding with a focus in the Southeast.
- Gander Mountain also is expanding in the Southeast with a new concept as well as traditional stores opening in new markets.
- Dick's Sporting Goods, despite a decline in share price as a result of second quarter results, has been growing significantly by growing its geographic footprint and retail offerings.
- Hibbett Sports, a sporting goods retailer specializing in footwear, equipment and apparel, raised its 2013 outlook with fiscal second quarter earnings rising 33 percent. The company also opened seven new stores in the past year and expanded three, bringing their total to 837 stores nationwide.
Not only are outdoor and sporting goods stores seeing a continued trend in the healthy consumer mindset, specialty clothing and athletic wear retailers are following the trend. Evidence suggests that "workout" and "performance" wear is more commonly accepted as every day wear and increasing market share – retailers such as Lululemon and Gap's Athleta are prime examples.
- Lululemon continues to see the highest sales per square foot of any sporting goods apparel chain at $1,800 per square foot.
- Gap's acquisition of Athleta in 2008, a women's active wear brand starting as an online retailer, reported in its second quarter update that it has added 11 stores, making a total of 22. Athleta plans to operate more than 50 stores by 2013.
Gym and fitness facilities have benefited as well. During the 2012 Florida ICSC conference at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, many landlords voiced an interest in expanding gym concepts as a result of the response from the consumer. Nationally recognized tenants such as LA Fitness have continued their expansion across the country.
Industry leaders continue to debate whether this retail trend is a result of the economy, the change in consumerism not just being about consumption, or the "green washing" that occurs in almost every product made, service offered, or recently built or upgraded space. Regardless, it is evident that the average consumer is acutely aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. It also is certain the demand is recognized by top-of-class retailers who cater to these mainstream values and lifestyle.
Expect sporting goods and outdoor stores, athletic wear carriers, and fitness facilities to continue finding unique tactics for surviving, rising, and catering to a health-conscious audience.
— Emil Gullia, CCIM, is the senior director of business development for Franklin Street Retail Tenant Services Group. He can be reached by emailing