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Dec 14, 2016

Sneakernomics: The Sales Void Created by The Sports Authority

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When The Sports Authority (TSA) filed for bankruptcy last spring, it was the largest failure we had ever seen in the sports industry. The overleveraged TSA represented about 20 million square feet of sporting goods retail – nearly 10 percent of the industry's square footage. Proportionally, TSA represented more than 10 percent of the industry’s apparel and equipment sales while it under-indexed in footwear.

NPD’s Checkout Tracking correctly identified the primary recipients of TSA’s business: e-commerce (brand, retail, and pure play), adjacent big box sporting goods, and national discounters. But what was not anticipated was that some of its business would simply evaporate.

It is now clear that some of TSA’s business came from its Sunday flyer marketing strategy. Even if the customer did not need what was advertised, some came out and bought goods simply for the discount. Now that those flyers are no longer running and with no traffic going through their stores, a portion of TSA’s business has vanished into thin air.

It is easy to see this in the outdoor industry numbers, where TSA was a major player. Outdoor sales through the athletic specialty/sporting goods channel decelerated from down in the low single-digits in the first half, to down in the high single-digits in the third quarter. Sales in the outdoor specialty channel actually improved in the third quarter from the first half, as it picked up some sales given up by TSA.

In activewear, we see a similar trend. Nike and Under Armour are the largest brands in activewear.  Their sales for Q3 were up sharply in department stores and national chains, but were down sharply in athletic specialty/sporting goods. Adidas, who did not have a big presence at TSA, saw sales rise sharply.

In footwear, where TSA was not as significant a player, the shift is less visible, but still exists nonetheless. Changing fashion categories also mask the shift in the business. Running shoes was a category where TSA had a strong position. Sales there decelerated sharply after TSA stores closed. Categories including classic footwear, where TSA was not an influential factor, were not impacted at all.

It is clear that the closing of The Sports Authority stores last summer has left a vacuum in the market. The greatest impact on the business will come in the fourth quarter, as this was when TSA was fighting for its life. After that we should see this void created by TSA’s closings begin to abate.


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