The now-bankrupt Sports Authority and best-in-class Dick's Sporting Goods were near equals ten years ago, with $3 billion in sales each...
Business is pure competition and the retail business is the meanest of all. As with sports, there are winners and losers -- with little room for a middle. So when Sports Authority squared off against Dick's in the retail sports war there was always going to be just one victor. Predicting which one was easy. Dick's was selling dreams, which is what sports retailers do. Sports Authority sold equipment. That's far less profitable. Dick's knew that a golfer had to feel like a good golfer when she was in the store, that a runner should feel fast, and that an angler must imagine he was about to hook the fish of his life while standing in line to pay for a reel.
And that's what killed Sports Authority -- the presentation. It was dark while Dick's was bright. It was a little cheaper, while Dick's sold premium. The difference can be summed up neatly this way: Sports Authority sold baseball bats and Dick's sold home runs. All successful sports equipment and apparel retailers sell ambition and inspiration, not stuff. They sell soul, not soles. They sell Just Do It, not try it on. The 8-year-old kid who went into Dick's saw a wonderland and wanted to be the next Steph Curry. The kid who went into Sports Authority wanted to take guitar lessons.
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