Dick's Sporting Goods opened Wednesday in Kittie's Crossing in greater Bluffton, filling a retail space that had been vacant for more than four years.
The 40,000-square-foot store between Target and Staples, in the shopping center off U.S. 278, is Dick's 11th in South Carolina and first in Beaufort County. The Pittsburgh-based company has 492 stores nationwide.
"We chose that location due to it being a great market, in which we can serve the sporting-goods and equipment needs of athletes of the local community," said Christina Burwell, Dick's community marketing manager.
Like most Dick's locations, the Bluffton store carries major athletics shoes and apparel brands, stocks all manner of sports equipment and has a golf section run by a PGA professional. It also has a hunting and fishing department.
The store employs about 60 people, including 11 managers and sales leaders. The employees will earn an hourly wage, rather than commission on sales, Burwell said.
The space Dick's now occupies had been vacant since June 2008, when Goody's Family Clothing closed.
Bluffton Mayor Lisa Sulka said Wednesday the new store suggests improvement in the region's tourism and retail economy, which helped attract numerous big-box businesses to the U.S. 278 corridor during the past decade.
"I think it shows they can do well in this market," said Sulka, who will attend the store's ribbon-cutting Friday.
Dick's will compete with nearly a dozen outdoor, sporting goods and golf shops in southern Beaufort County. Although it likely will cost them some business, most local sports shops believe customer service, specialization and local knowledge will ensure their survival.
"It would be foolish for me not to be concerned about the impact Dick's is going to make on our business," said Jill Swanker, co-owner of Player's World of Sports on Hilton Head Island, which focuses on tennis equipment and clothing. "In our case ... you can always talk to an owner; you can always talk to other tennis players. We are very knowledgeable; we both string racquets."
Other stores are retrenching to better compete.
"Dick's is a huge carrier of Under Armour. Clothing-wise, I am going to have to be a little more selective," said Josh Boyles, owner of Southern Drawl Outfitters in Moss Creek. "I'll probably cut down to two or three brands nobody else carries around here and just focus on those. I am not going to get into competing for clothing business with Dick's."
Jan Counts, owner of SportZone in Bluffton, said she wasn't very concerned about Dick's. Her store sells sports gear, but it also makes signs, banners, and uniforms for many local sports leagues.
Dick's held a "soft opening" Wednesday and plans a grand opening this weekend with giveaways, drawings and appearances by current and former professional athletes.
Golfer and long driver Tom Garber will be at the store from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday. Professional bass angler Mike Iaconelli will host a fishing demonstration from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Clemson alum and former NFL quarterback Steve Fuller will sign autographs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.
For more information on grand opening events or to receive an in-store coupon, go to www.dickssportinggoodsonline.com/Grand_Open/bluffton .