Small-town sports fans are the bread and butter for Hibbett Sports. The company sells sports equipment, athletic apparel, and footwear in small to midsized markets in about 25 states, mainly in the South and Midwest. Its flagship Hibbett Sports chain is composed of more than 810 locations, and stores are primarily found in malls and strip centers anchored by a Wal-Mart. Hibbett also operates a single Sports & Co. superstore, a larger format featuring in-store putting greens, basketball hoops, and appearances by athletes. On a smaller scale, it runs about 20 mall-based Sports Additions shoe shops, most of which are situated near Hibbett Sports stores. The company also operates an e-commerce site.
Hibbett, whose roots reach back to 1945, sticks to communities of about 25,000 to 75,000 people -- towns where it can top local retailers without drawing much attention from large-market chains, such as The Sports Authority. Apparently, its strategy is working. Hibbett in fiscal 2012 (ends January) saw its sales increase by about 10% vs. the prior year, with net income up about 27% over the same period. The addition of about 35 new stores and a nearly 7% increase in sales at existing stores contributed to the gain. Indeed, Hibbett has been a relatively strong performer over the past four years, despite the recent recession. Between fiscal 2008 and 2012 sales grew by about 40% to $732 million.
While the economic downturn didn't hurt sales much, it did slow the chain's expansion as Hibbett found it more difficult to secure new commercial leases. To compensate, the company focused on expanding high performing stores, with good results. Going forward Hibbett expects to pick up the pace of new store openings with about 60 new locations slated to open in fiscal 2013. Ultimately, Hibbett expects to grow to more than 1,300 stores within its existing markets.
The company customizes merchandise to communities' local sports teams and events such as university championships. The company's Hibbett Team Sales subsidiary sells sports equipment, apparel, and footwear to school athletic programs primarily in Alabama.
T. Rowe Price Associates and Neuberger Berman Group each own about a 10% stake in Hibbett Sports. – less