Back in May, at Dick's Sporting Goods' (NYSE: DKS ) first-quarter conference call, president and COO Joseph Schmidt downplayed rumors about Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) moving into sports apparel and equipment, saying:
From a premium standpoint, which is a bit more where we play... [Amazon doesn't] have access to a lot of that product. Nike doesn't sell them on a direct basis. Under Armour doesn't sell them on a direct basis. So some of that premium product, they don't have access to.
It's true that Nike (NYSE: NKE ) and Under Armour (NYSE: UA ) don't sell to Amazon or its subsidiary footwear e-tailer Zappos.com. But if Amazon uses its mighty force to pave the way for consumer demand within its channels -- particularly to another of its subsidiaries, Quidsi.com, which can create a more niche site to appease the premium brands -- would those companies resist? It's doubtful.
But Dick's (and many Wall Street analysts) are holding strong to the conviction that the company's current access to premium brands will protect its business from being obliterated by Amazon. The company has also been beefing up its online store to stay relevant.
So far Dick's attitude and efforts seem appropriate, and its stock has actually been beating Amazon's exciting 2012 growth by 12.7%:
This Fool is skeptical of the long-term sustainability of Dick's lead, though.
Amazon isn't a company that just dips its toes into a retail sector. It goes into an industry with the goal of changing consumers' expectations. Luxury is the only sector it hasn't been able to penetrate yet, due to the experience luxury consumers expect. And unfortunately for Dick's, premium brands does not a luxury experience make.
Trying on sneakers is also not considered a luxury experience by most shoppers, and Amazon knows this. With free shipping and free returns, Zappos.com has overcome a lot of the barriers for footwear e-tailers, becoming the largest online shoe store in the process.
There wouldn't be any trial and error if Amazon seriously pursues this path -- it already knows how to penetrate the market, and execution would likely be swift and seamless.
Dick's and its investors should probably be more concerned for the company's long-term prospects. I'm going to head over to my CAPS page and give the company a thumbs-down, because I don't expect it to continue outperforming the market over the next few years. To read about a company in the retail with some incredible long-term prospects, be sure to check out our special report entitled: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." This report is completely free and only available for a limited time, so claim your copy by clicking here.