Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

An Uneven Playing Field

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

An Uneven Playing Field

Article excerpt

The reason the Sports Authority store on Willowbrook Boulevard in Wayne is on a store-closing list filed in Bankruptcy Court, and the reason the Sports Authority chain is in trouble, is obvious once you step outside the front door of the store.

A large sign for its chief rival, Dick's Sporting Goods, dominates the view of shoppers, and the Dick's store, directly across Willowbrook Boulevard, is close enough that a golfer could hit it with a 300-yard tee shot.

The Dick's store, which opened in fall 2014, is a newer, bigger and better competitor. Dick's strategy of placing its new stores as close as possible to existing Sport Authority locations has taken sales from the Sports Authority.

"There may not be room for a Sports Authority today," said bankruptcy expert Chuck Tatelbaum, a partner in the Florida-based law firm Tripp Scott. Sports Authority, which is hoping to find a buyer for the entire company, or multiple buyers for most of its stores, may be in a situation comparable to the electronics retailer Circuit City, Tatelbaum said, when rival Best Buy emerged as the sole survivor from that battle.

"With Modell's and Dick's, you've got formidable competitors who have existing names, existing everything," Tatelbaum said. "Sports Authority's name has been dragged down because the inventory hasn't been full, hasn't been complete. The sales team hasn't been like they have at other stores. If you go to Dick's, there is a golfer working in the golf department," he said.

The Colorado-based Sports Authority filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday, saying it hoped to attract a buyer for the company, or sell off the leases to its underperforming stores to raise cash.

Howard Davidowitz, the chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm based in Manhattan, said the odds of Sports Authority being able to reorganize and stay in business are slim. …

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