Another New Retail Concept. Just What We Need.

Back in early December, I bookmarked an article I wanted to write about then promptly forgot about it with the holidays and other intriguing stuff going on. It was a short article in Stores News about Sports Authority starting to open stores called S. A. Elite.

Like the story said (read it here), Sports Authority has 450 stores of the 40,000 to 50,000 square foot size. S. A. Elite stores are supposed to be “high performance lifestyle shops.” They will be from 12,000 to 15,000 square feet in size. There are only two of them now (both in Colorado), but they expect to open another dozen in 2011. They will tend to be in city centers and high end malls.

The S. A. Elite web site says the following:
“S.A. Elite by Sports Authority carries top-of-the-line assortments and premium collections from elite global vendors. Our stores house performance and fashion-focused athletic apparel, footwear and accessories. If you are the athlete who requires specialized apparel and accessories to reach your goals, we’ve got you covered. If you are an individual who rocks an athletic aesthetic, we’ll outfit you in style.”
Sports Authority EVP Jeff Schumacher said in the article, “We’re not looking to create fashion statements. We’re looking to create performance statements…[with] products that consumers can’t find elsewhere.”
When you go to the web site and see featured brands that include Nike, Burton, Ray-Ban, Columbia and Adidas (there are only 15 brands listed in total) you kind of wonder what “can’t find elsewhere” means.
Still, I’d have a hard time disputing that the concept might be valid. Regular readers will have seen me suggest that a true “core” store is one that caters to participants in the sports and the first level of nonparticipants that closely associate themselves with the sports. That appears to be the group S. A. Elite is targeting.
There are, however, some differences. From the pictures on the web site, I’m guessing the stores will be a bit more boutique like and fashion focused than what we think of as core shops. I also expect that the target demographic is a bit older. Finally, it sounds like there will be a focus on performance and improving it; not just on participation like in a core store.
As our market gets sliced and diced by more and more people in the endless and inevitable hunt for a meaningful competitive advantage among products that mostly don’t offer one based on performance (because it’s all good stuff), the space left in the market for the traditional core shop gets smaller and smaller. I guess that’s why there are fewer of them.
On the other hand, that space seems to get more and more clearly defined all the time. Those who are left who feature new and lesser known brands, are part of their community, manage their inventory cautiously and have a solid balance sheet, have a quality internet presence (whether they sell or not), manage to keep at least a handful of committed employees, and are of size both in terms of revenue and square feet that make them viable, can still succeed.
I have to try and see this store when I’m in Denver for SIA.



2 replies
  1. Christopher Scott
    Christopher Scott says:

    It does seem to fit with the current growth cycle of the action sports retail industry which is forcing many brands to focus on the core consumer. This is similar to your comment about the death of ASR; “You can’t exist only in the “core” if you want to be a billion dollar company.”

    Sports Authority is already a very large company with lots of retail experience. We can be assured that they have researched the hell out of the core concept, whether or not it will resonate with the target demo is another issue.

    I would definitely like to hear your impressions when you return from visiting the S.A. Elite store.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Well, I’m back from SIA in Denver, but unfortunately did not get to the store. As I said in the article, I think what Sports Authority probably makes sense. At some level, it’s just another atttempt to slice and dice the market, but nobody has come at it quite like this.

      thanks for the comment.

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