Hibbett Sports on Friday reported that first quarter net sales fell 0.4% to $274.7 million compared with $275.7 million a year ago, as same-store sales fell 0.3%.
In the quarter, Hibbett opened seven new stores, expanded four high-performing stores and closed 18 underperforming stores, which brought its store base as of May 5 to 1,068 in 35 states. CEO Jeff Rosenthal told analysts Friday that the retailer plans to continue closing stores and optimizing its store base, according to a conference call transcript from Seeking Alpha.
Hibbett Sports took its time getting into e-commerce, and this quarter the online channel was its saving grace. The company is still working to alert shoppers to its online presence, but has also added a mobile app to further stoke marketing and online sales, and later this year will offer in-store pickup for online orders.
The quarter was muted overall, though executives took pains to point out that things improved as the weeks went by: By month, comp sales fell 7.3% in February, rose 6.1% in March and another 0.6% in April, teeing up for a second quarter with cleaner inventory and higher volumes of new product, CFO Scott Bowman told analysts, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha.
The sports retailer is also grappling with a few new idiosyncrasies in the athletic footwear market, including that street styles are mostly outselling performance ones, unless the performance shoe also passes for high fashion. The Nike Epic React and Adidas UltraBoost, for example, are selling more as "cool sneakers" rather than as performance shoes, according to chief merchant Jared Briskin.
Another challenge of late is that those brands have presented a new layer of competition as they've worked to grow their own direct sales to customers, through online channels and stores of their own. At the same time, they are scaling back the scope of limited releases.
But executives maintained that Hibbett has an advantage over brands because customers can shop and compare among brands, and insisted that brands will continue to value Hibbett as a channel when it comes to high-profile releases. "We do feel, as a slice of the pie, that our share is going to continue to get larger," Briskin said.