With mega-chain's arrival imminent, sporting goods dealers mull changes

gmartin@islandpacket.comDecember 31, 2011 

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When news broke recently that Dick's Sporting Goods was headed to Bluffton next fall, Jim Buser knew the ball was in his court.

As owner of Sports Addiction in Bluffton, Buser anticipated making major changes to his business to compete with the corporate giant.

"I'll definitely have to reevaluate what we're carrying," Buser said at the time. "We may need to specialize in two or three things instead of being so broad."

Dick's, which has 474 locations nationwide, is the largest sporting goods retailer in the country. Its impending arrival -- scheduled for November near Target on U.S. 278 -- has precipitated a variety of reactions from local sporting goods dealers.

According to Raymond Christen, manager of Sports Nutz in Beaufort, part of the trick to competing against Dick's is not to compete against it at all.

"We sell a lot of sports memorabilia, things that Dick's doesn't have," he said. "We're a bit of a niche player, but that's probably the best thing to be at this point in time."

Jill Swanker, co-owner of Player's World of Sports on Hilton Head Island, shares Buser's open-minded attitude about the future.

She said she and co-owner Tom Jilly haven't discussed what changes will be made.

"I don't want to be a Pollyanna and say there won't be any impact on us," she said. "It's just hard to tell whether it will be an initial or ongoing one."

Both Swanker and Aaron Dowell, owner of Bluffton Marine Sports & Supply, confessed to sneaking a peek at the chain's website to see what it offered.

Swanker said it's tough to glean too much from a website -- "They don't show how things will be displayed," she explained -- but Dowell was encouraged.

"They're not big discounters, and they don't offer the same variety we do," he said.

Dowell hopes to benefit from a waterside parcel he recently bought near his store, enabling customers to test kayaks before buying.

Rob Fyfe believes the personal touch his Palmetto Running Co. in Bluffton provides will allow the store to thrive in the shadow of his future neighbor.

"You walk in our door, and we'll give you a complete foot analysis and suggest shoes for you," said Fyfe. "You walk into Dick's, you tell the guy what you want, and you walk out."

Mike Colella of Golf Headquarters on Hilton Head anticipated making no changes to his business, saying he welcomed the chain's arrival.

"I was happy to hear that; they're a reputable organization," he said. "I think this is nothing but good news."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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