Time Ticks For Sports Authority Following Chapter 11 Filing

Like an aging and out-of-shape athlete in a game increasingly dominated by upstarts with speed and agility, The Sports Authority is struggling to either stay in the game in a diminished role or retire gracefully. The Englewood, Colo.-based chain of 463 stores in 40 states and Puerto Rico filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware yesterday, 

“The retailer — owned by Los Angeles-based private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners — said it would seek to sell or close about 140 stores, or nearly one-third of its locations,” Nathan Bomey writes for USA Today. “The company admitted that it had lost market share to online retailers, became swamped with $1.1 billion in debt and failed to keep up with consumer trends, such as golf's decline in popularity.”



Fortune’s Phil Wahba reports that the filing “was largely expected since it missed a $20 million coupon payment on its debt in Jan. 15, triggering a 30-day grace period to work out a deal with creditors.”

Leonard Green & Partners paid $1.3 billion for Sports Authority in 2006 making it “188 out of the top 200 deals from that era, according to Thomson Reuters,” writes Liz Moyer for the New York Times. “In that year and the year after, a large wave of deals took companies private, including nine of the 10 largest on record.”

Many have floundered in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, Moyer reports, saddled by debt and a much more cautious consumer. But money managers don’t naturally make good retailers, either.

“Customers and others had long complained that Sports Authority’s shopping experience was drab and outdated,” writes Jacob Bogage for the Washington Post. “The company’s stores were more warehouses of athletic supplies than the updated locations of its competitors, namely Dick’s Sporting Goods, that offer an ‘immersive’ experience.

“In retail, you can’t just leave all the stores alone forever,” Morningstar analyst Paul Swinand tells Bogage. “You have to constantly reevaluate your stores or else they get old. If you don’t see changes coming and you let that go for too long, you end up with tired stores and tired customers and brands that don’t want to give you their best product.”

Lenders want the company to run a bankruptcy auction and close a deal by April 28.

“With a planned bankruptcy auction less than two months away and no offer in hand, Sports Authority is fighting the odds,” writes the Wall Street Journal’s Peg Brickley. “The history of recent retail bankruptcies — among them Circuit City, Borders, Sharper Image and Linens n’ Things — is littered with liquidations,” she observes, with “the streamlined RadioShack” as an exception.

In a statement announcing the filing, the company said that it has been pursuing a dual track while conducting a strategic review with its outside financial advisors: comprehensive debt restructuring or selling some or all of its assets.

“We're charging down both paths,” Sports Authority CEO Michael Foss tells the Denver Post’s Alicia Wallace in an exclusive interview. “We don't know which path we'll end up going down, but we want to make sure we've looked at everything broadly and determined what's best for all four constituencies,” which Wallace identifies as financial stakeholders, 13,000 employees, customers and vendors.

Foss points to the chain’s “inefficient store network” — the result of trying to absorb different retailers it has merged with. “The hodgepodge of Sports Authority stores, with sizes ranging from 8,000 square feet to 80,000 square feet, couldn't collectively adapt to changing consumer behaviors and an increasingly competitive environment that includes e-commerce giant Amazon.com and specialty retailers such as REI and Lululemon Athletica,” Wallace writes.

Recycling a hoary quote from hockey great Wayne Gretzky, CEO Foss tells her: “We're trying to skate to where we think the puck is going to be.”

At this point, however, with the seconds ticking down and the ball at half court, he might also evoke the uncanny ability of another athlete — the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry — to sink long  shots as he similarly redefines the way his sport is played, which Scott Cacciola deftly wrote about in the New York Times earlier this week.

2 comments about "Time Ticks For Sports Authority Following Chapter 11 Filing".
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  1. Stuart Dornfield from Stuart Dornfield, LLC, March 3, 2016 at 11:09 a.m.

    I remember vividly responding to a Sports Authority newspaper ad that offered a $25 Gift Card for any purchase of $100 or more. Unfortunately, I was disappointed to learn after my purchase that the gift card was only valid for one specific week, so it was not about rewarding the customer, it was about deceiving the customer, making the customer feel like a pawn in Sports Authority's grand scheme to limit redemption rates by inconveniencing and undervaluing them.

    The retailer never evolved into a business that was customer-centric. Whether it’s searching desperately for someone in the store to grab a ladder to find your athletic shoes in the size you needed, to understaffing and over merchandising their congested-aisle stores, the shopping experience at Sports Authority was never pleasurable nor shopper friendly. It was a self-help model that was so frustrating and devoid of customer service that it drove customers to shop online with Sports Authority’s competitors.

    STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter who has worked with more than 200 clients in b2c and b2b industries across digital and traditional channels including retailers such as Office Depot, Men’s Wearhouse, Mattress Firm, ShopKo, Vitamin Shoppe, Value City, Petsmarts, Michaels, Thomasville, Sports Authority and over two dozen more. http://stuartdornfield.com

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, March 3, 2016 at 11:51 a.m.

    Oh please. There are coupons all over for everything everywhere with specific dates on them. Been going on for years. Big miss.

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