Sports Retailers That Are Losing to Walmart, Amazon, and Other Major Outlets

Most struggling sports retailers are down for the count when it comes to competing with retail giants like Amazon, Walmart, and other big box stores. In fact, some of these once popular retail chains have already lost. The outdoor lifestyle is still trendy (especially with millennials), so why are so many outdoor retailers are struggling to maintain relevancy and stay in the black. What gives?

Several factors are responsible for such doom and gloom in the industry. For one, they’ve failed to adapt to a new retail landscape. At the same time, they’re losing to Amazon, Walmart, and other trendy branded companies like Nike, Under Armour, and Lululemon — all of which have done so with ease.

Which stores should we say goodbye to? Here are 10 retailers struggling to put up a good fight, and five stores that are successfully calling the shots.

1. Academy Sports

Academy Sports + Outdoors

Academy Sports is seriously struggling. | Academy Sports + Outdoors via Facebook

Long gone are the days where little leaguers and their parents head to sporting goods stores for a youth baseball glove. Those can be found at Walmart or delivered via Amazon just as easily now-a-days. As a result, once popular stores like Academy Sports have lost footing in the retail sector. The chain has failed to keep up with online shoppers and has laid off 100 employees in its Texas headquarters. Moody’s Investor Service has little hope for their future thanks to declining same-store sales.

Next: A store that blames gun sales for its demise

2. Gander Mountain

Ganger Mtn store front

The sports store was put up for bankruptcy auction. | jetcityimage/iStock/Getty Images

The largest recreational vehicle distributor, Camping World, won a bankruptcy auction for Gander Mountain. The sports retailer that dubs itself “America’s Firearm Superstore” admitted to towing about 160 underperforming stores and excess inventory before officially filing in early 2017. It has been struggling for months and attributes its failure to recent gun regulations and politically-charged gun control debates that sunk sales.

Next: No one can help this national chain

3. Sports Authority

Sports Authority storefront

It will be shutting down for good. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sports Authority filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2016, and has since fallen deeper into the retail woes. It closed 140 of its 450 stores and cut its retail footprint by 30%. Later that year, the chain announced a full shutdown after a buyer failed to come to the rescue. Like many struggling sports retailers on this list, Sports Authority blamed booming success of online sports websites for its demise.

Next: For this store, they’ve already lost to Walmart and Amazon

4. Sport Chalet

Sport Chalet store

They had to shut down all of their locations. | Sport Chalet via Facebook

Sport Chalet isn’t just losing to Walmart and Amazon, they already lost. In 2016, it closed all 47 stores in California, Arizona, and Nevada. The 57-year-old sports retailer once thrived, even offering customers an in-store pool for scuba training and certification. But even online sales improvements won’t boost its bottom line. It’s officially shut down both the online shop and brick-and-mortar locations.

Next: A store that’s never coming back

5. MC Sports

MC Sports

They owe millions in debt. | Dwight Burdette/Wikimedia Commons

MC Sports had no other option but to file for bankruptcy in May 2017, after court filings revealed more than $14 million in trade debt. USA Today says it owes about $3.8 million to Nike and $2.4 million to Under Armour. Hundreds of thousands are owed to Adidas, Columbia, Sportwear, and Wilson Team Sports as well.

The chain lost tits niche sporting goods market to large retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Bass Pro Shops, forcing it to shut down all 68 stores and call it quits for good.

Next: Gun sales plummeted at this retail chain

6. Cabela’s

Cabela's World's Foremost Outfitters Opens First East Coast Retail Outlet and Museum

Cabela’s is still headed downhill. | William Thomas Cain/Getty Images

Gander Mountain’s failure did nothing to save Cabela’s from plummeting sales revenue. Quarterly revenue was down 4% in one year, and same-store sales dropped 9%, something the CEO blames on slower gun sales since the election. A sizeable portion of Cabela’s profits are from hunting and shooting accessories, so it’s no surprise Bass Pro Shops is in the process of buying the chain since their poor showing.

Next: Store facing bankruptcy

7. Eastern Mountain Sports

Eastern Mountain Sports

It filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Eastern Outfitters is the parent company of outdoor retailers, Bob’s Stores and Eastern Mountain Sports — both of which are struggling to stay relevant in the booming online marketplace. Eastern Mountain Sports filed for bankruptcy protection in early 2017 and will close a large chunk of its 70 total stores in the Northeast.

British sportwear retailer Sports Direct International snatched up the retailer, but considering Eastern Outfitters was also owned by private equity firm Versa Capital Management with an equally tumultuous past, it’s unclear whether the purchase was a wise one.

Next: A sports store with a new plan

8. City Sports

city sports store

They’ve changed their tactic in hopes of a sales boost. | City Sports via Facebook

East coast-based athletic retailer, City Sports, filed for bankruptcy and closed 8 of its 26 stores in 2015 thanks to threatening competition from Walmart and Target. The remaining 18 stores were bought by Philadelphia-based brothers with previous success running the profitable Soccer Post retail chain. The new plan for success? To cater to the serious city athlete, ages 25 to 40.

Next: Another casualty of bankrupt owners

9. Bob’s Stores

Bob's Store

It’s losing out to boutique competition. | John Phelan/Wikimedia Commons

Bob’s Stores is another struggling sports retailer that’s losing out to boutique stores like Athletica and Lululemon. These are companies that are completely rethinking what you can wear when playing sports in a very profitable way. Bob’s Store cannot say the same. But it’s also owned by Eastern Outfitters, now managed by Sports Direct. The new buyer is spending $101 million to pay off debtors, so only time will tell whether Bob’s Store will arise from the ashes.

Next: A serious debt problem

10. Golfsmith

Golfsmith International Grand Opening NYC

The store wasn’t competing with its competitors. | Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images for Golfsmith

The golf equipment chain filed for bankruptcy protection recently, closing nearly two-thirds of its 109 stores. The retailer sunk further into debt trying to compete with Dick’s Sporting Goods and the PGA Tour Superstore. The highly unsuccessful venture put them nearly $200 million in debt.

Sporting goods stores that are bucking the trend

While some outdoor retailers fight to maintain relevancy in the retail sector, others are finding ways to succeed. Here are five stores that seem to be in it for the long haul.

1. Dick’s Sporting Goods

dick's sporting goods

It’s still managing to hold on. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Dick’s Sporting Goods is the country’s largest sports retailer. It has acquired 22 stores from its bankrupt competitors including 22 Sports Authority locations and its entire website. The chain is also one of the few retailers with plans to open new stores moving forward. Success is attributed to an ability to adapt to changing retail markets. For example, a collaboration with country singer Carrie Underwood and her Calia fitness collection made Dick’s a key player in the women’s lifestyle brand market.

Next: A store with a loyal following

2. R.E.I.

REI store

They offer experiences as well as equipment. | M.O. Stevens/Wikimedia Commons

Sure, R.E.I.’s eclectic, hippy brand seems a little crunchy to the casual outdoorsmen, but its business model is crushing retail competitors nonetheless. Annual revenue grew 5.5% in 2016 and its online sales are surging. Customers love its co-op design, meaning the company is owned by its members. Knowledgeable staff offer hiking and camping classes, various outings and trips, and events for its adventure-seeking consumers — thereby cultivating a sense of community among shoppers.

Next: Another company that relies on community

3. Modell’s

Modell's Sporting Goods

Their revenue is still growing. | Anthony92931/Wikimedia Commons

Revenue has grown almost $67 million in three years for Modell’s. It has also established a reputation for building community by partnering with local stores to donate money to neighborhood teams via its Team Weeks program. So yes, we can’t deny sales may be steady for Modell’s, but it’s other drama that could signal its future demise.

The CEO has been accused of spending millions on food and trips on the company dime. He’s also tripled his annual pay in recent years, and bouts of marital and familial feuds are in danger of clouding store success, a DNA Info report suggests.

Next: A store with a competitive advantage

4. Nike

Nike To Lay Off 2 Percent Of Global Workforce Amid Drop In Sales

Nike conducts many of its sales online. | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Other than their outlet locations, the Nike brand conducts most of its sales on other popular store shelves and websites. Customers flock to Amazon and Nike websites to view every piece of the collection. In turn, smaller stores only have room to carry a portion of the items in-store.

At a time when consumers prefer branded products, Nike surged ahead working with instead of against big-box retailers to sell their products. It launched a plus-size fitness line and is currently employing strategies to get its product to market faster than ever before.

Next: Will this store benefit from another’s failure?

5. Bass Pro Shops

Bass Pro Shop Outdoor World

Time will tell if they help Cabela’s. | Miosotis Jade/Wikimedia Commons

Bass Pro Shops has 94 retail locations spread across the U.S. and Canada. Its flagship Springfield, Missouri, store is the state’s top tourist destination. The company also owns wildly successful brands such as Tracker Marine that ensures it will be a sporting goods mainstay for years to come. It recently acquired Cabela’s for $5.5 billion, and only time will tell if that works out in their favor.

Follow Lauren on Twitter @la_hamer.

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