Sports goods chain eyes Baltimore

March 24, 1995|By Jay Hancock | Jay Hancock,Sun Staff Writer

The game of selling golf clubs, team shirts and basketballs in Baltimore may become more competitive.

Dick's Clothing & Sporting Goods, a fast-growing chain that builds bigger sports equipment stores than any yet seen locally, intends to place from three to five stores in the Baltimore region, said people familiar with its plans. The first probably would not open until 1996.

Dick's is negotiating to put a store in the planned Nottingham Square shopping center in White Marsh, said J. Joseph Credit, vice president of Nottingham Properties Inc. And Dick's is seriously considering several other sites, including the top level of the former Macy building in Hunt Valley Mall, other sources said.

Executives at Dick's headquarters in Coraopolis, Pa., near Pittsburgh, declined to comment. Maury Levin of KLNB Inc., Dick's local real estate broker, also declined to comment.

The privately held company, which has been called the Wal-Mart of sports merchandise, typically operates stores of 65,000 square feet. It has at least one store, in Pittsburgh, of 70,000 feet.

That's bigger than than all but the biggest supermarkets and larger than even the most spacious, 59,000-square-foot venues offered by competitor Sports Authority.

"They're huge stores," said Alan Carr, chief executive of Retail Strategies, a consulting firm in Macedonia, Ohio. "There's really nothing you could say to yourself they didn't have if you went in there for fishing or golfing or whatever. And they appear to be competitively priced. They're probably not the lowest, but they're also not the highest."

Dick's arrival would increase competition for prime, big-store sites, which already are scarce in the region.

Dick's was founded in the 1940s as a bait and tackle shop in Binghamton, N.Y., by Richard Stack. Mr. Stack's son, Edward W. Stack, 39, is president and chief executive.

A small operator for years, the company landed outside financing in recent years and "sort of bolted out of the blue," said Stephen A. Blake, president of Sunny's, a Baltimore-based outdoor goods chain. "They started opening up stores like crazy."

As of February, Dick's had 22 stores in Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, according to the Buffalo News in Buffalo, N.Y. Dick's is blitzing Ohio this year, Mr. Carr said, with six stores planned for the Cleveland area and at least eight for elsewhere in the state.

The nearest Dick's store is in York, Pa., Mr. Blake said.

The stores offer camping, fishing and hunting gear; team sports equipment; shoes; pro and college team-licensed merchandise; exercise equipment, and a broad line of casual wear, including brands such as Levi's, Lee and Columbia.

Customers can test products on a store running track, tennis backboard and a small golf driving range.

"I was very impressed" with the chain, said Nottingham's Mr. Credit. "We know they have good financial capability, from what we've been able to determine. And they run a good operation."

Dick's Baltimore rivals will include three area Sports Authority stores; half a dozen Herman's World of Sporting Goods stores and more than a dozen Sunny's stores. The company also will compete with Wal-Mart, Kmart and other big discounters.

"I just wonder how much this market can absorb," said Sunny's Mr. Blake. "There's only so many people."

Nottingham Square is a planned 40-acre center at Campbell Boulevard on the east side of Interstate 95.

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