The sportswear and sporting goods market experienced a boost during the early stages of the pandemic as fitness moved offline and people stocked up on home equipment. And though offline fitness has rebounded following its COVID-induced slump, the sports retail segment continues to grow. With 2023 already underway, we look at the changes in visits to two of the biggest names in the segment – DICK's Sporting Goods and Hibbett Sports – to see how these brands performed in 2022 and what we should expect from the category this year.
Pre-Pandemic Gains Remain
Despite the downturn in discretionary spending last year, both DICK's Sporting Goods (DICK's) and Hibbett Sports (Hibbett) managed to hold on to their pandemic gains and maintain positive year-over-three-year (Yo3Y) quarterly visit trends every quarter of 2022. Q1 and Q2 2022 visits to DICK's were up 4.0% and 0.8% relative to 2019, and visits to Hibbett outperformed by 25.3% and 28.0%, respectively, for the same period.
The two chains’ emphasis on expansion over the past few years has likely contributed to their consistently outperforming foot traffic. DICK's has also been leaning into partnerships, teaming up with brands like Peloton and Stanley to bring a wider customer base into their stores. The company’s recent purchase of Moosejaw is also a testament to its commitment to expanding the DICK’s brand ecosystem.
Year-Over-Year Visits: Getting the Ball Rolling
2021 was a strong year for both chains, with foot traffic to DICK's and Hibbett consistently outpacing 2019 visits – and this strength is critical when analyzing year-over-year (YoY) comparisons. Hibbett saw positive foot traffic growth in three out of the year's four quarters, with Q4 seeing a year-over-year (YoY) decline of 1.8%. And while DICK's saw its foot traffic down, much of this can be related to shifts in group size and shopping patterns, and even with those, by Q4 2022 gaps had narrowed just 2.8% compared to the previous year's visits.
It’s important to keep in mind that the two chains target different audiences. Hibbett positions itself as the go-to sporting goods retailer for smaller communities with fewer retail options nearby, and DICK's has been concentrating on expanding its brand ecosystem, which includes Field & Stream, Public Lands, and Golf Galaxy, while also prioritizing omnichannel services and strategic partnerships.
Loyalty is The Name of the Game
Of the two brands, DICK’s is by far the bigger company with a significantly larger visit share – but competition in the category is growing, and Hibbett’s recent growth means that the space is getting crowded. And although both companies have active loyalty programs – foot traffic data indicates that Hibbett is making significant strides not just in growing its overall visit numbers, but also in increasing its share of returning visitors. While DICK's still leads the loyalty pack, Hibbett is nipping on its heels, with its rate of returning visitors rising as DICK's returning visitors are on the decline. In 2019, 84.2% of DICK's visitors visited a DICK’s store at least twice, in comparison with Hibbett which saw just a 61.3% share of return visitors for Hibbett. By 2022, those numbers had declined by 3.4 percentage points for DICK's while increasing by 6.5 percentage points for Hibbett.
Weekly Visits Showing More Variance
Despite the overall positive trends for both companies, inflation is still making its impact felt on this discretionary segment. Weekly visits into 2023 showed quite a bit of variance YoY, with DICK's seeing foot traffic declines six out of the seven weeks analyzed, while Hibbett’s visits declined for two weeks. However, January and February tend to be slower seasons for sporting goods retailers, and visits should likely begin picking up again in March.
The past few years have been tumultuous for all retail categories. Yet, chains like Hibbett and DICK’s prove that strategic expansions, partnerships, and consumer loyalty can provide visit boosts in challenging times.
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