With nearly 15,000 employees, there’s no glee in the news that Sports Authority is closing all of its stores nationwide as another brick and mortar retailer bites the dust.
We detailed the reasons why retailers were going to meet this kind of end sooner rather than later in a study we did some months ago. I also pointed out that Sports Authority was headed this way a few months ago. What has happened in the retail space is not all that different than what we’ve seen with Circuit City, Blockbuster and BlackBerry.
That is, an inability (or, in some cases, a stubbornness) to look ahead to the future so brands are ahead of any coming technology and can adjust their brands accordingly.
Experts are saying that Sports Authority, once the nation’s leading sports retailer, has been a victim of increased competition. Amazon, as well as the Internet as a whole, has eaten into the retailer’s market share as consumers find it easier (and, sometimes, cheaper) to simply shop online.
That is absolutely true. However, why is it that some retail brands succeed in the same space and others don’t? Why is Dick’s Sporting Goods profiting just as Sports Authority has died?
Sports Authority did not invest in its brand.
The reason is simpler than some retailers think. Dick’s has a brand, becoming a destination for those shopping at the turn of a new season. Yes, Dick’s “Every Season Starts at Dick’s” has helped the retailer establish itself in a timeline of seasonal sports, primarily hunting, fishing and golf.
What about Sports Authority? Yes, it became the name sponsor for the Denver Broncos stadium, but it has been a meaningless brand for some time. It tried to hitch its wagon with college and pro sports teams, but those entities have skipped the middle man (like Sports Authority) and now sell their wares directly to the consumer online.
If you’ve been in one of Sports Authority’s stores, you find yourself in an environment without focus. Like many brands that ultimately fail, it simply sat on its market leadership without investing in its brand. And it has now cost it its life.
In that aforementioned study, we said that, at the very least, retailers need to stand for something in order to survive. While Dick’s, now the market leader, may get overconfident in the wake of this news, at least it stands for something.
Other retailers should heed the story of Sports Authority and realize that, if they do not invest in their brands even when they are market leaders, they will also become irrelevant and gone.