Byline: Katherine Bowers

LAS VEGAS — The Sports Authority will increase the women’s portion of its apparel mix to 50 percent and greatly expand women’s apparel’s visibility in remodeled stores this year.
Marty Hanaka, chairman and chief executive officer of The Sports Authority, told an audience at the Super Show that the company, which has traditionally carried 65 percent men’s apparel and 35 percent women’s apparel. To help bring the ratio to 50-50, a new private label women’s basics line will be available in stores for fall.
Hanaka highlighted the retailer’s aggressive plans for women’s apparel as it focuses on renovation, rather than construction, during a presentation Monday as part of Financial Day, a Goldman Sachs-sponsored event at the Super Show. The show closes a four-day run Wednesday at the Sands Expo.
Hanaka said the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based operator of 198 sporting goods stores returned to profitability this past year by closing 28 units and remodeling existing stores. “The industry was overstored and certainly we were a part of it,” he said.
For fiscal 2001, there are no plans to open any new stores, but 12 stores are slated for renovation with women’s wear a centerpiece of those efforts. Comp-store increases are projected to be in the low-single digits.
He cited women’s apparel as a key growth driver for the firm.
As of the fourth quarter of 2000, “for the first time, women’s [apparel] is beating men’s day after day,” he said.
Led by Nike, Adidas and Reebok, sales for women’s apparel climbed slightly more than 20 percent. Danskin, Everlast, Columbia and Marika also turned in strong performances, he said.
The Sports Authority plans to incorporate new merchandising to improve presentation. “Women’s [apparel] comes front and center [in remodeled stores.] We’ve added tables to fold [clothes] and size better,” Hanaka said. “We’ve moved out dressing rooms to the front of the store, so women don’t have to walk a hundred yards back to some dark closet.”
The Sports Authority had been hurt by larger market trends, such as declining sports participation and retail oversaturation. A recent shakeout in retailers that carry sporting goods — including Bradlees, Wards and Nevada Bob’s — has eased those pressures, Hanaka said.
For fiscal 2000, comp-store sales rose 1.5 percent, the first such increase in four years. Earnings before interest, taxes, debt and amortization will be slightly more than $60 million and earnings will exceed 15 cents per share, according to chief financial officer George Mihalko.
Hanaka said the company’s all-time high of $80 million EBITDA is “within our reach for 2001.”
For the 39 weeks ended Oct. 28, The Sports Authority had a net income of $12.5 million on sales that were up slightly to $1.08 billion, versus a prior-year loss.

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