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Sporting Goods Stores Must Appreciate The 'Bubba' Factor

Houston Retail

The obvious reason why Academy Sports & Outdoors is doing so well in the rapidly shrinking big-box sporting goods space is because Weingarten CEO Drew Alexander (above, with United Equities' Doug Freedman) is a former board member. The real reason is much more complicated. Drew and Bisnow's panel of experts at last week's future of retail event looked at how sporting goods stores dropped the ball.

Drew says the sporting goods industry is not very financially disciplined. Look at places like Cabela's, Dick's and Sports Authority with their museums, climbing walls and batting cages. That brings people to the store, but if they don't buy a lot of stuff, it doesn't add up. These attractions take up enormous space yet produce little cash flow. Drew joked that to get cash flow positive with these attractions you almost need to charge an entry fee.


What Academy understands is the "bubba" factor of sporting goods, particularly in Texas. Having that latest cheap fad fishing bauble drives people to the store, where they purchase a lot more than just a tiny lure. It's a cost-driven strategy, the exact opposite of the museum model. 

Waterman Steele's Lance Gilliam (above with Di Nunzio Architecture's Carlo Di Nunzio) is a "bubba" who Academy is catering to. He pointed out that having an ice chest next to fishing baubles is the type of basic execution that drives the success of sporting goods stores. When Academy expanded outside of this category with high-quality clothing and top-of-the-line shoes, it was a death knell for retailers that limited themselves to the higher end of the market like Sports Authority and Oshman's.