Select Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS) stores in New England opened early on the day after the New England Patriots won their sixth Super Bowl. The chain did so to sell championship apparel, hats, and other gear.
It's a move that shows how brick-and-mortar chains can still do things that digital rivals cannot. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) might be able to sell championship gear via same-day delivery in select markets but it could not reach anywhere close to the market served by Dick's. This also may become a blueprint for future actions by the sporting goods retailer, which has struggled in the face of growing digital competition.
A winning play?
Part of the reason many retailers have fallen victim to the so-called retail apocalypse is that they largely continued operating as they always had. Sure, they added websites and some even made some nods to omnichannel operation, but they did not adopt a start-up mentality.
The big retail winners -- companies including Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) -- have embraced start-up thinking. For Walmart, that included buying Jet.com and integrating its visionary CEO, Marc Lore, into its top management.
Lore not only serves as the company's digital chief. He has been an agent for change in its retail stores too. That includes testing ideas like order pickup kiosks, curbside pickup, and having in-store employees make deliveries on their way home. Not every idea worked but Walmart hasn't acted like a legacy company resting on its laurels. It has been willing to break things and fail, then try again, as a start-up would.
Target does not have an executive with as storied an entrepreneurial history as Lore. It does, however, have a CEO in Brian Cornell who has embraced change. The retailer has revamped many of its stores to reflect how people shop now and it too has tried a number of different ways of getting items to customers.
In addition, Target bought a start-up of its own, Shipt. The delivery company may be small potatoes compared to Jet.com, but much of its team joined Target and has helped the company add same-day delivery in many of its markets.
Super Bowl-winning coaches don't make a game plan and then stick with it no matter what. They make tweaks based on what's working and what the other team shows them. At halftime, a good coach may throw out a lot of what was planned based on how the game has gone so far.
Good retail leaders do the same thing. Walmart and Target are thriving while other chains stumbled because they've made major operating changes based on a changing retail environment.
Dick's opening early isn't all that bold a move. It may, however, be an acknowledgement that it can't operate as it has. Having physical stores offers the chain some advantages over pure (or mostly in the case of Amazon) digital rivals. Dick's has the ability to get merchandise that consumers -- in this case fans of a team that just won a championship -- want faster than internet-based companies that rely on traditional delivery.
This is a small move but it should result in more than sales for Dick's. It also builds goodwill and, frankly, reminds consumers that it's still an option.
Dick's needs to embrace change and look for every edge it can get. This is one move in one part of the country but if it works it can be copied for other sporting events. Opening early isn't a game changer but it's a step that shows the retailer may be open to business not as usual in order to find a formula that works.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel B. Kline has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.