I have always loved browsing and shopping in sporting goods stores. As a, well, former “jock” (at least in my own mind), I would meander the aisles looking at the latest equipment and marvelling at the choices. The Mom and Pop shops were the foundation of the industry until the “Category Killers” came onto the scene. At that time, I thought The Sports Authority (TSA) was paradise. Sure, there were the locals like Oshman’s in the Midwest and Paragon in Manhattan, but TSA had them all beat as far as I was concerned because of their sheer size and the breadth of assortment they would carry. It was Disneyland for us athletic types.

But along the way, TSA had their problems (that’s for another entry, but it became too big, too fast and too boring) and in Canada, they were even pushed out of town by the monopoly that is now Sportchek (owned by the Forzani Group). I am not crazy for the store design or the breadth of selection at Sportchek, but, then again, Canada is not the United States and the needs and selection are different (just walk down a supermarket aisle and count the number of different breakfast cereals that are available in a U.S. supermarket compared to what is carried in a Canadian one and you will understand what I am talking about).

But I have definitely found the next generation of sporting goods nirvana: Dick’s Sporting Goods from outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I always have to walk around the store anytime I see one. With 350 stores across 38 states, they have started to blanket the country in major markets. With over 50,000 square feet on average on two floors, almost guarantees a breadth of selection. But it is in the store design and the visual merchandising that makes this concept different from traditional sporting goods retailers. In the past, you either felt like you were in a warehouse or something from the 1960’s, with bad lighting, worn out carpeting and old style shelving and racking.

Dick’s is a different story. The store design is meant to ensure as much natural lighting as possible comes through, making it a very different feeling in the store. The second floors are generally mezzanine-like in that they do not cover the entire first floor, thereby retaining that airy feeling. Their assortment is second to none. They have the best brands but within those brands, they tend to choose the freshest merchandise. The buyers have very keen eyes for what will sell and what will appeal to their target markets.

Their sight lines are also well managed so that you are able to see exactly what you are looking for and where you are going (not to mention the creative visuals in each section). The store is split into “worlds” which are very well signed (a pet peeve of mine, and very rare) and easy to navigate. Their wall visuals are very attractive and their floor is also easy to navigate and understand.

All in all it is very easy to see why they have become the number one large format retailer in sporting goods in the United States. I continue to be impressed with their stores, their selection and, on most occasions, their service…Which garners them the “Three Cheers”…

The RetailTherapist 🙂

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