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Hibbett Sports’ ‘Support Her Sole’ Campaign Highlights Female Sneakerheads

A new campaign from Hibbett Sports is aiming to dispel the notion that sneaker fandom is a guys’ game.

In collaboration with Nike and sneakerhead publication Nice Kicks, the Birmingham-based footwear and athletic gear purveyor has released the first installment of its Support Her Sole (SHS) video miniseries, which features interviews with inspiring female sneaker enthusiasts working to make the space more open, collaborative and conducive to women’s success.

According to the retailer, the campaign was conceptualized as a means of highlighting the triumphs of women who have faced down obstacles both personal and professional using creative expression and tenacity. SHS is produced by an all-women, Black-owned agency called True to Size, which was founded by sneaker designer and creative consultant Jazerai Allen-Lord.

The miniseries release coming at an opportune time for the company which released earnings on Friday. While second-quarter sales dipped 5.1 percent to $419.3 million, the retailer posted a two-year sales increase of 66.1 percent. The sales results crushed Wall Street analysts’ consensus estimates of $320.9 million.

In the miniseries’ debut episode moderator Jasmine Sweet, a Nashville-based lifestyle blogger, introduces Houston fashion marketer and founder of Sneak Her Summit and sneaker community HerGrails.com, Tausha Saunders.

Blogger Jasmine Sweet is the series moderator.

Blogger Jasmine Sweet is the series moderator.

Saunders spoke to breaking into a male-dominated space with events geared toward women. “I saw tons of voids in the sneaker community as far as inclusivity of women,” she said, describing attending conventions where women’s sizes were excluded from offerings on display. “I was like, ‘This has to change.’ We need more female-owned companies and businesses that are selling women-owned goods.”

“Women can create a better ecosystem and community for other women to thrive in by putting in the work of supporting your sister,” she added. Her Grails hosts events like “Kicks and Flicks” and “Kicks and Coffee,” blending activities like watching films or grabbing a caffeine fix with opportunities to check out the latest sneaker releases.

Meanwhile, North Carolina blogger and founder of lifestyle brand and community platform Kicks and Fros, Melissa “Chanel” Carnegie, underscored the importance of engaging with her local community both physically and virtually as a means of growing her business.

“Community and connection in the digital age is so unique,” she said. “I believe that just showing your support, whether it’s in a social media post, an email, or just bringing up someone’s name or someone’s name in a brand in a room where they’re not talked about yet is a great way that we can cultivate community and support.”

The next installment of the miniseries will air next week on NiceKicks.com, Hibbett.com, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Hibbett Sports said.

“We are proud to launch our first all-female project featuring strong, successful women who are passionate about supporting one another and making a difference in their communities and in sneaker culture,” Sarah Sharp-Wangaard, the company’s vice president of sports, added. “Support Her Sole is a new way for us to connect with Hibbett and City Gear fans and will be especially exciting and inspiring to young girls and frankly, anyone who watches it.”

Matt Halfhill, founder and CEO of Nice Kicks, said the company was drawn to the project because it wanted to give women a voice and do something different than it had ever done in the past. “We were so glad to have the partnership with Hibbett and Nike to share just as much enthusiasm in the idea,” he said. “From the very beginning, we brought in Jazerai Lord and her agency True To Size who have done a number of projects elevating women’s voices in sneakers, to execute a project for women by women.”

Blogger Sweet moderated the project’s subsequent episodes, which were filmed at the Hibbett Sports store in Clarksville, Tenn. “I’ve never been more thankful to be a part of a project that not only highlights women for their incredible accomplishments but gives us a call to action to unite everyone to support ‘Her,’” Sweet said. “I think it’s beautiful and progressive.”

In an earnings call Friday, Hibbet CEO Mike Longo discussed the financial side of the business and the slight dip in Q2 sales. Longo was quick to point out that last year’s sales in the period were boosted by temporary and permanent store closures at competitors while Hibbett stores remained open, as well as consumers spending of stimulus payments.

Longo noted that Hibbett has improved its customer retention rate year over year and has increased average ticket.

Hibbett raised its sales and earnings guidance for the full fiscal year for the second time, with comparable sales growth expected to be in the positive mid-teens, up from a previous range of positive high-single digits to positive low-double digits. Diluted earnings per share is now expected in the range of $11 to $11.50, up from $8.50 to $9.

Gross margin guidance remains unchanged, with second-half margin expected to be lower than last year’s, while Hibbett still anticipates a full-year margin bump.

The operator of the Hibbett Sports and City Gear banners is planning to up its spending on customer experience, distribution and infrastructure, now saying it will invest nearly $70 million in capital on these “organic growth opportunities.” This is a major leap from the initially pegged range of $45 million to $50 million in spending.

Inventory at the end of the second quarter was $216.8 million, a 19.1 percent increase compared to the $202 million carried in 2020.

Although he said he was “very confident” in the company’s inventory positioning, Hibbett senior vice president and chief merchant Jared Briskin admitted that the retailer is struggling to catch up to its ideal inventory goals. At the end of the first quarter, Briskin said the company still sought to generate an additional $80 million to $100 million in merchandise to handle demand.

“I would say our aspiration is certainly to continue to try and get our inventory level caught up to those numbers but, you know, based off the demand that we’re seeing, and some of the constraints, that’s becoming more difficult,” Briskin said. “At the same time. I think we’ve effectively operated on lower amounts of inventory and are more comfortable in operating with the lower amounts. It really becomes more about the flow of that inventory, how trend-right we are on inventory, and whether we have it at the right time.”

Gross margin was 39 percent of net sales for the quarter, compared with 37 percent of net sales for year-ago period. The approximate 200 basis point (2 percentage point) increase was driven by higher sell through of premium priced product, a low promotional environment, improved online profitability, and a slight mix shift away from e-commerce sales which, despite an overall improved margin, still carry a lower rate due to incremental fulfillment costs.

Capital expenditures totaled $13.8 million and were predominantly related to store development activities including new store openings, relocations, expansions and remodels.

Hibbett ended the second quarter with $176.8 million of available cash and cash equivalents. As of July 31, 2021, the retailer had no debt outstanding and full availability under its $100 million secured credit facility.

Net sales decreased 5.1 percent to $419.3 million, compared with $441.6 million in the year-ago period, but reflected a two-year increase of 66.1 percent on $252.4 million.

Comparable sales decreased 6.4 percent, as brick and mortar comparable sales declined 3.8 percent and e-commerce sales dipped 20.4 percent. E-commerce represented 13.1 percent of total net sales for the period, compared to 15.7 percent in the year-ago quarter.

On a two-year basis, comparable sales increased 72.8 percent, while digital sales skyrocketed 153.3 percent and brick-and-mortar comparable sales jumped 64.5 percent

When it comes to categories, team sports led the way with double-digit comparable sales growth. Both apparel and footwear saw mid-single-digit comparable sales declines. Briskit noted in the call that all categories exceeded initial sales expectations.

Net income at Hibbett was $46.7 million, or $2.86 per diluted share, compared with a net income of $40.4 million, or $2.38 per share, for the second quarter of 2020.

Operating income came in at $61.5 million, ahead of the $56.3 million generated in the second quarter of 2020.

Longo said he was bullish on the state of sporting goods retail as a whole, with other recent earnings reports setting a higher bar for the retailer.

“You’re going to see prices continue to creep up, and that will be less about inflation and more about demand exceeding supply,” said Longo on the call. “You’re going to see continued high turns and sell throughs at the store level, and online. Those then lead to higher gross margins on the product, certainly we’re going to see some inflation creep in on the product costs, but as long as the gross margin continues to keep pace, that means actual gross profit dollars per product are actually going to be higher.”

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