||Independents Earn High Marks in Consumer Reports Sporting Goods Survey
In its first ratings of sporting-goods retailers, over 26,000 readers told Consumer Reports about more than 34,000 experiences buying treadmills, skis, and the like.
Almost 30 percent of the transactions took place at Dick's and Sports Authority. But neither made readers as happy as did independent stores and pro shops, one-sport chains, or outdoorsy companies.
The merchants that pleased readers most offered value (the goods were worth their cost), wide selection, high-quality products, and solid service. Independent stores and pro shops were especially skilled at providing knowledgeable and solicitous service.
"If you're investing $1,000 on a set of golf clubs, you want a personal connection with someone who knows what they're talking about," said Lee Diercks, a partner at the Clear Thinking Group, a business-strategy company, in a statement. "Specialty shops exist because there are those consumers who value someone who can string a racket and make sure it's properly weighted, teach you how to shoot, and make sure you select the right ski boots."
Survey respondents who shopped at independents and pro shops took full advantage of the help available: 92 percent interacted with the sales staff. Only 43 percent of respondents who shopped at a mass merchant received help.
Among sporting goods specialists, a few golf stores ranked close together with a Reader Score of 88 for Edwin Watts Golf Shops, 85 for Golf Galaxy and 84 for Golfsmith. Performance Bicycle rated an average Reader Score of 84 and Scheels All Sports, 83.
Among more traditional sporting goods chains, the highest was Academy Sports, 80, followed by Sport Chalet, 79, MC Sports, 78, Dick's Sporting Goods and Big 5, both rated 76, and Sports Authority and Dunham's Sports, 75. Coming in last was Modell's with a 74.
The scores of Modell's as well as Big 5 were pulled down by lower marks around Selection. However, the scores of Big 5 as well as MC Sports were boosted by higher marks around value.
Among outdoor stores, L.L. Bean and REI tied for the highest Readers Score at 89. They were followed by Cabela's and Eastern Mountain Sports, both at 84, Bass Pro and Sportsman's Warehouse, both at 83, West Marine,
79, and Gander Mountain, 78.
Among mass merchants, the best Readers Score for a seller of sporting goods was Costco, at 84. That was followed by Fleet Farm, 82, J.C. Penney, 80, Sears, 79, Target,
77, Sam's Club, 75, Kmart, 72, and Walmart,
A score of 100 would mean all respondents were completely satisfied; 80, that respondents were very satisfied,
on average; and 60, fairly well satisfied.
The most common problem for sporting-goods shoppers was a limited choice of sizes. Overall, about one in four respondents had a complaint that wasn't related to service or selection, usually about cluttered aisles, long checkout lines, or hard-to-find price tags.
Consumer Reports said it limited its ratings to walk-in stores because that's how most people buy sporting goods. The publication adds in its statement, "But if you know exactly what you want, buying online makes sense. Prices on the Web are frequently as much as 10 percent lower than in stores, in part because federal law doesn't require online retailers to collect state sales tax unless they have a physical location in that state."
(Source: Sports Executive Weekly, 05/20/13)