Academy, Ltd., which conducts retail business as Academy Sports + Outdoors, last week announced that Ken Hicks, who was Foot Locker's CEO from 2009 to 2014, has been appointed chairman and CEO. He replaces J.K. Symancyk, who is leaving to pursue another opportunity, according to a company press release.
At Foot Locker, he helped develop and deliver on plans reversing three years of negative same-store sales, the company said. He has more than three decades of senior merchandising, marketing and operational experience in retail in leadership positions at companies including J.C. Penney, Payless ShoeSource, Home Shopping Network and May Department Stores.
Academy Sports + Outdoors enjoys 11% market share in sports retail, according to Euromonitor, which pegs Dick's Sporting Goods as the leader with 19%, followed by Bass Pro Shops with 14%.
Academy Sports + Outdoors runs more than 245 U.S. locations and has spent the first months of this year opening new stores and relocating others. Hicks says he's a long-time customer who grew up in Houston near the retailer's headquarters, and he's been serving as a member of its board.
He has his work cut out for him. The retailer's outdoor focus sits in a challenged segment and a turbulent market. Over the past few years, Sports Authority succumbed to bankruptcy, along with Sports Chalet, Eastern Outfitters and Gander Mountain, which was swiftly picked up by Camping World and is now reopening stores. Bass Pro last year also acquired rival Cabela's for $5 billion, and JD Sports Fashion in March agreed to acquire 100% of Finish Line's stock for about $558 million.
The experience of a seasoned executive could help ensure Academy Sports stays on the right trajectory, and indeed, since Hicks' departure, Foot Locker has stayed on an encouraging path, giving Amazon a run for its money, partnering with Nike and closing underperforming stores in a healthy and consistent way, per analysts.