Sporting goods, anyone?
The list of bankrupt or struggling sporting goods chains is growing.
The parent company of Eastern Mountain Sports filed for Chapter 11 in early February. Shortly after that, reports swirled about a similar possible fate for Gander Mountain. These events follow a year that saw Sports Authority declare bankruptcy and close 300 stores. Also last year, Sport Chalet went out of business.
Given the presence of sporting goods — from coolers to canoes to camping gear and beyond — at all the major hardware buying markets, the struggles of the large sporting goods chains raises a timely question for independent dealers: If Sports Authority can’t compete with Dick’s Sporting Goods and Bass Pro Shop — or Walmart and Amazon for basketballs and bikes — what chance does an independent hardware store have? A pretty good chance, actually, according to distributors who spoke with HBSDealer.
At Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Do it Best Corp., the co-op said it has members who are planning for sporting goods growth in 2017-18, because of opportunities in their markets, and that the current state of retail sporting goods bodes well for independent dealers.
According to Do it Best merchandise manager Shane Burnworth, the merger of Bass Pro and Cabela’s has put a lot of pressure on other large box sporting goods retailers, like Gander Mountain and Sports Authority.
A large retailer leaving a market is a clear positive for an independent. But also, independents have the luxury of dealing in sporting goods as a niche to capture additional sales, as opposed to an all-in, make-or-break effort, he said.
At Hardware Distribution Warehouses, Craig Cowart, president of the Houston division, said he also sees opportunity for independents in sporting goods, and any other niche category underserved by big boxes in a local market.
“We see home improvement retailers successfully catering to local market needs in sporting goods as part of their diversification,” Cowart said. “Most of those that carry the category either work on the edges featuring promotional items to bring in traffic, or try to be the one-stop shop in select categories such as hunting products, camping, collegiate apparel.”
Cowart said he sees many of his customers succeed in gifts, housewares and sporting goods alongside traditional hardware staples.
“Stocking multiple unrelated categories under one roof — it's what makes local retail exciting to shop and profitable to run,” he said.
However, one area of sporting goods that has seen recent year-over-year declines is firearms. Demand appears to have dropped thanks in part to the recent political transition to a president and Congress deemed less likely to legislate restrictions on gun sales.
A home center goes high tech
With aggressive growth as a goal, Bonners Ferry, Idaho-based Pro X Home Center will launch the Epicor Eagle N Series retail business management solution across its business. The idea is to improve inventory management, gain access to in-depth business analytics, streamline employee scheduling and expand the company’s online store.
Pro X Home Center is an independently owned member of Do it Best, stocked with products tailored for the surrounding community and an online catalog that features more than 67,000 items.
“Our business growth has shot through the roof over the last few years, which has been very exciting,” said Jeff Brubaker, owner of Pro X Home Center. “This growth has put us in a position for expansion, but in order to attain that expansion we needed a retail business management solution that could help get our business in order. Our previous point-of-sale system was holding us back, as it was not providing us with the information we required, specifically around inventory management and analytics. We are moving to the Epicor Eagle N Series solution because it will help deliver the results we need to support the company — including real-time data in our current location, which will be crucial for expansion into other areas — to make proactive decisions, and grow.”
Pro X Home Center has also selected the Epicor Scheduling solution to better equip the business with appropriate staffing levels.
“We decided to add the Epicor Scheduling+ tool for a couple of reasons,” said Susan Shope, general ledger manager of Pro X Home Center. “First, we were finding problems with our current timekeeping program. The information was not being transported correctly from the time clock device to the software management piece. In our old system, we were doing manual adjustments at the end of the month to add payroll into the system, so we were unable to tell how wages were affecting our bottom line, except at month end. Second, we liked the fact that it would be easy to see the sales volume in comparison to the labor force. We hope by using Epicor Scheduling+ software we will be able to more accurately predict the busy times, not only selling, but also other factors like stocking and inventory, and be better prepared with personnel.”
The longstanding relationship between Epicor and Do it Best Corp. gives hardware, lumber and building materials members that use the Eagle N Series solution seamless access to the cooperative information they need.
“Because of the easy access to the Do it Best catalog and vendor information within Eagle N Series software, we will no longer need to go back and forth between various programs. All the information we need will be available at the click of a button in one system,” said Brubaker.
With a successful and expanding online store, Pro X Home Center will also deploy the Epicor iNet eBusiness Suite. “Epicor iNet eBusiness Suite software was selected for future expansion we hope to make. We understand that many people do not use brick and mortar stores as much, and we want to capture a part of the population we may be missing. By allowing our customers to view not only everything we stock, but also items that we can special order, we will improve customer engagement and meet all of our customers known and unknown needs, wants, and wishes,” Shope said.
“As we implement Epicor iNet, our contractor customers will certainly appreciate the online access to account information,” Brubaker said. “With e-statements, e-invoices, and e-purchase orders, we will be able to easily and automatically email invoices, statements, and purchase orders to our vendors. I have no doubt this will save us time and money, as well as increase customer satisfaction since they will have quick access to the information they need.”
“Epicor Eagle N Series offers the industry-specific functionality our customers need to successfully and efficiently run a retail operation,” said Doug Smith, director, product marketing, retail and distribution, Epicor Software.
HBSDealer is looking for a few good All-Stars
In 2011, HBSDealer launched an All-Star idea — recognize a high-performing hardware or building supply dealer in each one of the 50 states.
The trend continues in 2017 with the STIHL Hardware All-Stars awards, to be presented in the May issue of HBSDealer.
To date, HBSDealer has recognized about 300 hardware stores, lumberyards and farm and ranch retailers across the country as All-Stars.
All-Stars contain one or more of the following attributes:
1) High levels of customer service;
2) High performance – growth, sales, profit or any other metric;
3) Deep involvement in the community;
4) Innovative culture;
5) Outstanding merchandising and store design;
6) Willingness to take risks;
7) A passion for philanthropy;
8) Excellence in training;
9) Ability to adapt to trends and society; or
10) Generally, just an all-around all-star retailer
Do any of these qualities describe a store in your neighborhood? We’d love your input.
To nominate a store for recognition in the STIHL Hardware All-Stars awards program, just send a sentence or two about the store to [email protected]. Please include the store’s full name, as well as its city and state.
Check out last year’s All-Star class here.