Will its Public Lands concept store help Dick’s conquer the great outdoors?

Discussion
Photo: Dick’s Sporting Goods
Sep 08, 2021

It’s only one store, but Dick’s Sporting Goods sees big things ahead for its new Public Lands concept, which will celebrate its grand opening on Sept. 24 in Pennsylvania.

We see a real opportunity to reinvent the outdoor marketplace, and we believe Public Lands can be a great growth vehicle for us, while also supporting the local community through conservation, access and equity-based initiatives,” said Dick’s president and CEO Lauren Hobart on the company’s second quarter earnings call in July.

The first Public Lands location will be 50,000-square-feet and feature a 30-foot rock wall for climbing, in-store gear repair and rental department and in-store shops dedicated to specific activities such as biking, camping, climbing, fishing, hiking, paddling, running and skiing. Public Lands will offer a premium assortment of outdoor and lifestyle apparel, footwear and gear.

The store, which will employ about 120 people, will be located about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh. Management says it will emphasize the customer experience with trained associates who are outdoor enthusiasts themselves sharing their “love for the outdoors” and a philosophy “of protecting” the public lands that Americans enjoy. One percent of all sales made at Public Lands will go into local and national conservation. Dick’s said it will “support the local outdoor community through conservation and access & equity-based initiatives.”

Will its Public Lands concept store help Dick’s conquer the great outdoors?

The concept, which Dick’s said last year was in the planning before the novel coronavirus pandemic hit, moves into a highly competitive market. That competitiveness, in large part, is due to the significant growth that outdoors and sporting products have experienced since the beginning of the pandemic.

Outdoor equipment sales were up 23 percent in the first half of 2021, compared to the same period in 2019, according to The NPD Group. Sales grew 17 percent in physical stores and 31 percent online across categories including camping, climbing, protective gear and water sports.

“The areas where specialty retail really seems to thrive today is in the add-on categories tied to enhancing comfort and convenience,” said Dirk Sorenson, sports industry analyst at NPD, in a statement. “After making the basic, fundamental investments to get outdoors, consumers are now turning to the expertise of specialty outlets and their sales associates to extend the experience and make it more comfortable.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see the Public Lands concept as in-tune with the needs of consumers in the outdoors lifestyle market? What will Dick’s need to do to compete with successful retailers currently operating in the market and what will that mean for scaling the Public Lands concept?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Dick's is listening to their customers and giving them access to experiences that align with their values which is exactly what an outdoor retailer should do."
"Public Lands is timely, immersive and mission-driven in a way that aligns nicely with customer needs and aspirations."
"...people are investing in outdoor activities and while this concept may be taking a page out of REI’s book, there is room in this country for two chains like these."

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14 Comments on "Will its Public Lands concept store help Dick’s conquer the great outdoors?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Public Lands is definitely in-tune with the focus on the environment and increase in the lifestyle market bolstered by the pandemic. Dick’s is making a very strong public statement on the environment with Public Lands and I admire their approach. I believe that this new concept will do well, but the proof will be in the results. And while I think the concept is a strong one, the store size and complex merchandising/attractions will make it costly to scale.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

Even in the midst of a pandemic that has restricted in-store visits, experiences still differentiate, perhaps more so than ever. Public Lands brings together the things that consumers care enough about to get them inside a store: expertise, assistance and entertainment. Combine those things with a commitment to supporting the environment, and you have a winning formula for Dick’s.

Liza Amlani
BrainTrust

The Public Lands concept is absolutely in-tune with the needs of the consumer, especially the messaging around getting outside and protecting our planet.

The store concept and experience will support the local outdoor community, encourage conservation and push access and equity-based initiatives.

This is not revolutionary but it is necessary. Dick’s is listening to their customers and giving them access to experiences that align with their values which is exactly what an outdoor retailer should do.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Retail as a learning center is overdue. Explore + Experiment = Experience. Show me. Teach me. I continue to think of retail as being in the “kit” business. I need help sometimes in putting together all the disparate pieces into an understandable total. It may be as simple as an outfit or as complicated as a camping trip. Show me. Thank you, that was helpful. I’ll be back the next time I need help.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

Experiential retail is the way to bring customers back into the stores. And for a relatively niche category like outdoor, there is immense potential to expand. Store concepts like these will help non-outdoorsy customers get comfortable and confident to try out.

There is no question that this is a long term play. This is not just about expanding Dick’s market share, but expanding the pie as a whole. The results will take years to come, because this is about shaping consumer needs and behaviors, one community at a time. But if anyone can do it in this space, it is Dick’s. And it is in their interest and important to their survival to get this right.

Raj B. Shroff
BrainTrust

I think Public Lands is in-tune with the needs of consumers. It sounds like a mass REI. There must be a whitespace for PL, for consumers who want a more approachable and affordable REI (I’m an REI shopper) and don’t want to visit a “hunting/camping store”.

Their flagship will have to lose some of the features like climbing walls, etc. Similar to REI which enters smaller markets and just has no frills stores with lots of gear and knowledgeable staff. Having passionate and well-trained staff will be key. REI has a purpose and loyalty which attracts pretty solid staff. I don’t see Dick’s or PL as being anything beyond mass merchants.

So the risk is that staff is transactional. That experience will dictate the type of shoppers they get. Still plenty of room to be successful in that space if they stay realistic about who they are.

DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust

The brands and retailers customers are most loyal to, such as Lululemon and Starbucks, offer more than a great shopping experience and product selection, they actually help the customer live out a lifestyle they desire. Dick’s new concept is right on point for creating an immersive ecosystem to support the outdoors lover, not just with purchases, but with activities they love and the means to conserve their natural playground.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I think its a very good effort to compete with the REIs of the world. It will hinge on the trained staff to sell the product. If they can do that, they will be successful.

David Weinand
BrainTrust

Timing is great. The pandemic has given people a new appreciation for the outdoors (and space!). As attested by their numbers, people are investing in outdoor activities and while this concept may be taking a page out of REI’s book, there is room in this country for two chains like these.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

There is strong competition (REI, Patagonia, Cabela’s, Yeti) so not a lay-down by any means. It remains to be seen how big this market is and exactly how “outdoors” is defined. If the consumer is thinking “i need some hiking shoes,” Dick’s wins. If they’re thinking, “I’m going camping and rock climbing for a week,” it’ll be a lot tougher. The entrenched competition also has a LOT of brand trust/equity built up over years so, if I’m Dick’s, I’m taking the amateur outdoors route (i.e.: hiking shoes). Stick to the center of the bell curve, DSG, that’s your home base.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The 1 percent contribution to environmental initiatives seems like an add-on to a really viable initiative. How many shoppers will care or even be aware? I can’t imagine that the ROI will be acceptable.

However the Public Lands concept is brilliant in every other way. It screams expertise, expertise, expertise. Can I get outdoor products in a Walmart or on Amazon? Surely! But I can’t get expertise.

Jeff Hall
BrainTrust

I’m looking forward to seeing this concept perform well. Public Lands is timely, immersive and mission-driven in a way that aligns nicely with customer needs and aspirations. It looks to take the best of REI and create the next iteration of what an outdoor lifestyle retailer can be, in a unique and fresh way.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

A cultural blend of REI and Patagonia, this new concept by Dick’s is right on target with what consumers are telling them they want to see. Not every store can be transformed into this concept, but I expect we will see Dick’s open more of these in the future. They are hitting on all the environmental and outdoor life notes sports enthusiasts and outdoor lovers want to see in a retail brand that caters to them.

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

Makes sense, given their target audience’s lifestyle. Retailers need to provide the experience to drive consumers back to the store with entertainment and hands-on experience. Showing commitment to the environment is definitely a plus as an education point to the new generation of outdoorsmen driven by COVID, that they need to be good stewards.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Dick's is listening to their customers and giving them access to experiences that align with their values which is exactly what an outdoor retailer should do."
"Public Lands is timely, immersive and mission-driven in a way that aligns nicely with customer needs and aspirations."
"...people are investing in outdoor activities and while this concept may be taking a page out of REI’s book, there is room in this country for two chains like these."

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