Why Academy Sports Thrived When Others Didn’t

    • Academy Sports has 259 stores and took in $308.8 million in net profit last year -- a 157.2% increase from 2019.
    • The retailer envisions having up to 800 stores across the U.S. one day.

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It’s no secret that many retailers struggled over the past year, but Academy Sports made the most of challenging times.

The Texas-based sporting and outdoor goods retailer has 259 stores and took in $308.8 million in net profit last year — a 157.2% increase from 2019.

While sales were down for athletic apparel like cleats and team-branded merchandise, Academy Sports saw huge interest in items geared toward outdoor activities like fishing and camping equipment, and it also benefited from the home fitness boom. 

  • E-commerce sales were up 60.7% in the fourth quarter, with customers embracing curbside and in-store pickup options.
  • In November, Academy released $400 million in senior secured notes, which it used to help pay down other debts at less favorable terms.
  • The company, which went public in October via IPO, has seen its stock price more than double since then.

Academy Sports’ success stands in contrast to other retailers, particularly Modells, which said in March it would close all of its stores after filing for bankruptcy. Gap, Macy’s, JCPenney, and several other clothing and department retailers have closed hundreds of stores recently.

Those with more of a focus on fitness and outdoor gear have fared better. Dick’s Sporting Goods had a record year; Lululemon doubled its e-commerce sales and has plans for a bigger brick-and-mortar footprint.

Academy Sports is thinking along similar lines, envisioning room for over 800 stores across the U.S.