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Dick's Sporting Goods to open women's fitness, lifestyle boutiques

| Monday, July 20, 2015, 10:15 p.m.

Dick's Sporting Goods is looking to broaden its appeal to women as it opens a concept store targeting a hot fashion trend in athletic apparel, a move that highlights the company's larger push to grow revenue outside of its core business.

The Findlay-based retailer said Monday that it was starting a “speciality women's fitness and lifestyle boutique” called Chelsea Collective. The stores are being added at a time when sagging golf and hunting sales have cut into Dick's profits.

The first two Chelsea Collective stores will open in August, one in Ross Park Mall and the other in Tysons Corner Center in Virginia. They will be operated as “small boutique shops” featuring footwear, equipment and beauty products and located in malls known for high-end retail and specialty stores.

“As leaders in sporting goods and fitness apparel, we wanted to provide a destination for women who are on their own personal fitness journeys,” Lauren Hobart, senior vice president at Dick's, said in a statement.

Dick's has been giving more attention to women's apparel, dedicating more floor space and introducing its own brand of workout clothes for women, Calia, which is promoted by country music star Carrie Underwood. Calia will be a featured brand in Chelsea Collective stores.

With 612 Dick's stores, the company's core business is as a general sporting goods retailer. But it has catered to other specialized markets through standalone locations such as Golf Galaxy and Field & Stream, a hunting retailer. It had 92 such specialty stores in the first quarter this year, up from 84 a year ago.

The Chelsea Collective debut is in line with Dick's strategy for exploring new markets, said Paul Swinand, an analyst at Morningstar.

“I think they're going to experiment and the first step is to test it,” Swinand said. “They've opened up some of these specialty stores in the past, and it hasn't taken off.”

Several years ago, Dick's opened True Runner in Shadyside, aimed at running enthusiasts. But the store never gained widespread appeal, and Dick's limited its presence to three stores, in Boston, St. Louis and Shadyside.

There's nothing wrong with testing an idea, but the company may be spending more money than it needs and missing an opportunity to support its flagship stores, said Aram Rubinson, an analyst at Wolfe Research.

Dick's should cater to niche interests in existing locations rather than open new ones, Rubinson said.

“You want people to shop in the assets you have,” Rubinson said.

Dick's is chasing customers who may have never visited a Dick's store before, said John O'Neil, an analyst at Imperial Capital. Indeed, the Chelsea Collective stores bring Dick's into an entirely new retail category.

“It's not a sporting industry trend,” he said. “It's a broad fashion trend, and it's seen as multi-year, here to stay.”

There is reason for Dick's to tread cautiously with Chelsea Collective, Swinand said. Fashion is a more volatile business than sporting goods.

The popularity of team sports, running, biking and fishing may ebb and flow, but the sports themselves will always be around, he said.

“I don't know about yoga and athleisures,” he said. “This is just a test, but the more you go into fashion, the more chance you have for some kind of reversal.”

Chris Fleisher is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7854.

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