In March, Sports Authority filed for bankruptcy and said it would close 140 stores. After failing to find financing, the retailer said it would close all 463 of its stores. The liquidation sales start Wednesday and will go through Aug. 31.
The closure of Sports Authority will have a huge impact on Dick's. The firms that acquired Sports Authority in bankruptcy court -- Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Retail Partners -- have a reputation as aggressive liquidators. The "going out of business" signs will go up instantly and the rapid selloff will begin. I doubt there will be anything left to sell by the end of August. City Sports in Boston and Sports Chalet on the West Coast are also closing. (I guess it's a good time to buy a tennis racket!)
Last week, Dick's CEO Ed Stack said the company expects same-store sales to fall 1%, but I think comps could fall about 3%, since Stack's comments were made when Sports Authority was slated to close only 140 stores (or 30% of its base). In fact, a 3% decline might be conservative, since 240 Sports Authority stores are within five miles of a Dick's Sporting Goods and 350 are within 10 miles of a Dick's. Last year, Sports Authority reported $2.6 billion in sales, or $5.7 million per store. While each Dick's store does over $10 million in revenue per store, a gigantic liquidation down the street is going to hurt.
The liquidation falls at the worst possible time for Dick's. Although the holiday quarter brings in more revenue, the July quarter usually provides the best same-store sales figure for the year. So instead of ending fiscal 2017 with a flat comp, which is what the consensus is thinking; it looks like Dick's will end the year with a big negative same-store sales figure. The last good comp year Dick's had was fiscal 2015, when the company reported a 2.3% increase in same-store sales.
If you look back, those quarterly comps drove the stock from the low $40s to $58. The stock crashed last year, because same-store sales collapsed from 3.2% to zero. The stock went from $58 to $34. Ouch!
If you think this is the bottom for Dick's, you have to be confident the company will be able to get back to a positive same-store figure, and fast. Last year, the October quarter was up 0.4% and the January quarter was down 2.5%. Not so great. That means you have to look a year out and think that fiscal 2018's April and July quarters will be great.
Back in 2008, Linens-N-Things filed for bankruptcy. The company closed 571 stores in 47 states. Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) - Get Report was able to take advantage of the situation and the stock had a huge run. But Best Buy (BBY) - Get Report wasn't able to take advantage of the closure of Circuit City in 2009. The company liquidated 567 super stores. Best Buy's stock churned around for years. The S&P 500 has outperformed Best Buy for a decade.
I don't think the closure of The Sports Authority will be a slam-dunk for Dick's. Investors expecting a quick rebound in growth and same-store sales might just strike out.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.