Even The Icons Fade

At its zenith, Sports Authority was a high flyer. A home grown juggernaut.

At its zenith, Sports Authority was a high flyer. A home grown juggernaut.

We went to Sports Authority over the weekend and it was sad.

The chain is liquidating which means all 400 plus stores–including those in Boca and Delray–will soon close.

The shelves are getting bare, the employees look disinterested and everything must go.

It’s a sad end to a South Florida institution which at one point was a remarkable success story.

The chain, once based in Lauderdale Lakes, burst onto the scene in 1987– the same year I moved to Florida. I remember shopping there frequently as I was easing into a lifestyle where you can play tennis and golf year round. I bought my first set of golf clubs (a Hubert Green signature set) at a Sports Authority and lots of racquets over the years.

Founded by Jack Smith, a veteran of Herman’s Sporting Goods (where we shopped as kids) the company grew to serve customers in 45 states and Puerto Rico. Within three years of its founding, Kmart bought the chain and later spun it off after a rapid expansion.

Like iconic brands such as Circuit City, Blockbuster and Borders, Sports Authority was disrupted by a variety of forces–including the rise of e-commerce and management that simply could not figure out a winning formula.

Ironically, sporting goods is a growing category topping $60 billion last year.

But the industry has changed. Consumers now seem to relish specialization–if you are into lacrosse or soccer you tend to shop at stores or online outlets that specialize in that sport where the selection is deeper and the sales staff is more knowledgeable.

In addition, suppliers such as Nike, LuluLemon and Under Armour are now competitors selling their wares in branded stores.

Retail has also become much more experiential with consumers wanting an experience which explains the success of places like Bass Pro Shops and Gander Mountain.

There’s a lesson here. You can never be complacent. Whether you are a city, a cultural arts center, a downtown, a restaurant or a retailer you have to grow and evolve. Complacency is a killer. Even when things are going well you have to wake up a little scared.

Blockbuster didn’t see Netflix or didn’t react fast enough, newspapers didn’t anticipate the threat of the Internet and Kodak missed the allure of digital photography even though they had the technology. In fact, they invented the digital camera. In 1975.

Today’s hot concept can be tomorrow’s casualty. Downtowns boom and bust, restaurant get hot and sometimes forgotten and cool concepts like Sports Authority can and do disappear.



Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.