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Academy Sports Breaks Ground in 2 More States

Academy Sports and Outdoors, Inc. is expanding its footprint to two new states. Later this year, the sporting goods and outdoor recreation retailer is opening its first stores in Virginia and West Virginia.

In total, Academy will open at least eight new stores in 2022, with six of the locations expected to open in existing markets including Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Texas.

With these openings, Academy’s existing store count will grow to 267 and expand its reach to 18 states. The retailer said it is evaluating additional locations for stores that could also open in 2022.

The sporting goods retailer, which saw apparel sales jump 25 percent in its most recent quarter, has been eyeing a larger brick-and-mortar presence. In September 2020, when it went public, Academy Sports + Outdoors highlighted 885 potential store locations that the retailer could expand to, with the goal to start expanding at a rate of eight to 10 stores per year.

“Academy Sports + Outdoors is excited to begin a chapter of growth with new stores this year, making shopping with us more convenient than ever in existing markets and providing new customers with the best assortment of sports apparel, footwear, equipment and outdoor gear,” said Michael P. Mullican, executive vice president and chief financial officer in a statement. “We have built a strong foundation of stores by being a fun destination that fuels sports, hobbies, and outdoor adventures. We are confident that our wide assortment of top brands and value products, coupled with outstanding customer service will make Academy the go-to sports and outdoors retailer for families in these new communities.”

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The first store opening will take place in Atlanta in the spring, before a second location in the city opens in the summer. Atlanta is one of the current markets where Academy has found success, alongside other Southern metropolitan areas including Dallas/Fort Worth, New Orleans and Charlotte, N.C.

In the summer, Academy is planning the Atlanta launch, as well as stores in Panama City, Fl., Lexington, Ky. and Richmond, Va. Finally, the retailer will bring stores to Houston, Huntington, W.Va. and Jeffersonville, Ind.

The Richmond and Huntington locations would be Academy’s first venture into the company’s “greenfield opportunity” it laid out in September 2020, which covered a possible 675 locations that could be built outside of the 16 states the retailer operated in. The majority of the stores built going forward are expected to be within the company’s traditional size of approximately 70,000 gross square feet.

Academy’s new stores should provide a mix of both unique and broad assortment from brands like Nike, Yeti, Adidas, The North Face, Under Armour and Columbia Sportswear, plus Academy’s private label brands like Magellan Outdoors, Freely, Mosaic, H2O Xpress and BCG.

As of November, the retailer generated approximately 20 percent of its revenue from private brands, compared to roughly 80 percent from national brands, according to president and CEO Ken Hicks in the company’s third-quarter earnings call. But over time, the retailer wants the ratio to shift to 25 percent to 75 percent, he said.

The new stores will while offer other more convenient fulfillment services, such as buy online, pick-up in store (BOPIS), curbside pick-up and free shipping on online orders over $25. Customers in these locations will also have access to in-store services that will include free assembly of grills and bikes, scope mounting, bore sighting, line winding/spooling, propane exchange and the ability to purchase hunting and fishing licenses.

Academy expects the new stores to bring nearly 500 new jobs across the eight communities.

Despite supply chain issues, which Mullican referred to as “a street fight” in the third-quarter earnings call, he said the company was “winning there,” with the firm having plenty of inventory on hand to deal with shopper demands. Total inventories at Academy were $1.3 billion in the quarter, an increase of 22.4 percent year over year. The inventories outpaced the retailer’s record sales growth of 18.1 percent to $1.59 billion.

With eight new locations expected this year, the Texas-based retailer will have to maintain its visibility into its supply chain to account for the new store space.

Even in an environment where more retailers were hiking prices, Academy Sports + Outdoors attributed most of its sales increase to a jump in store traffic. If this trend holds up for Academy, the new openings should benefit the retailer’s ability to drive top-line revenue even further.

Academy is expected to report holiday earnings from the period of Nov. 1 to Jan. 31 on March 29.