Retailers this year have been forced to adapt to a shifting environment of store closures and social distancing, and naturally, some have done a better job of that than others. Among those that have outperformed their peers, many can point to the strength of their omnichannel offerings. Others benefited from increased consumer demand in their specific niches.

Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS) was well-positioned in categories that grew in popularity as the COVID-19 pandemic reshaped our lives. Health, fitness, and solitary leisure activities have been at the front of consumers' minds. As a sporting goods retailer with a strong digital presence, Dick has been growing. Here's an in-depth look at what could keep that growth going.

Runner lacing her shoes

Image Source: Getty Images.

Strong omnichannel and digital capabilities

Dick's e-commerce revenue increased by 194% in its fiscal second quarter. Its omnichannel programs -- BOPIS (or, buy online, pick up in store), ship-from-store, and curbside pickup -- accounted for more than 75% of e-commerce orders in the period, that ended Aug. 1.

For the holiday quarter, Dick's is setting itself up to succeed further in omnichannel; it recently announced plans to hire 9,000 seasonal associates. These staffers will assist with ship-from-store orders and curbside pickup to provide customers with a seamless, convenient, and safe experience. That will only be more important in the current environment of high and rising coronavirus cases, which could motivate more people to choose contactless or low-contact shopping options.

Dick's ScoreCard loyalty program should also help boost digital sales. Its more than 20 million active members account for 70% of the company's revenue. The program is also important because the data that it gleams enables better communication and personalized marketing to its customers.

New promotional events should boost holiday revenue

Dick's is tapping into shifting consumer preferences this holiday season. On Nov. 18, it launched its first "10 Days of Black Friday," spreading its deals out more instead of concentrating them on one day or across the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday period.

"For the first time, we are extending our deals and making it easier than ever for our customers to get the best gifts for everyone on their list with flexible pickup and fast shipping to help them alleviate unwanted stress and large crowds," Dick's President Laurent Hobart said. "We've doubled down on technology solutions to ensure customers get what they need quickly, safely and hassle-free."

The retailer is also offering mobile checkout and return stations, and its newly launched Shop/Click/Pay app will be usable in some stores. And it has developed new line management plans for all of its stores in anticipation of the busy end-of-year period.

Spending more on sports

Peoples' buying patterns and behaviors have shifted this year due to COVID-19, and one way that many people adapted was to spend more time and resources on activities at home and outdoors. As a result, sporting goods retailers experienced a sales boost. A Bank of America credit and debit card usage report from mid-2020 confirmed that consumers were spending more on solitary leisure activities, like golf and outdoor recreation.

"The golf business has been great at both DICK'S and at Galaxy," CEO Edward Stack on the second-quarter earnings call. "There is a number of young people who have come into the game because they're not playing football or soccer or some other sports. So they're out playing. Guys are out playing golf because they're not at their kids' games. Men, women, and kids have all really jumped into this game, and we expect that to continue through the balance of the year too." 

This pattern looks to be continuing into the end of 2020 as the pandemic surges to new heights of intensity across the country. Some states and local governments are again putting restrictions on businesses, and pushing social-distancing and mask-wearing advice with renewed vigor. For example, Michigan instituted a three-week partial lockdown this month, and Washington and California have tightened restrictions.

On the other hand, Pfizer and Moderna both recently announced extremely promising results from the phase 3 studies of their experimental COVID-19 vaccines. While neither one has been approved by the FDA yet, the wide availability of effective coronavirus vaccines should lead to people returning to something more like their pre-pandemic routines, including more in-person shopping.

Overall, Dick's is well-positioned to outperform in the holiday season. In the challenging retail sector, this consumer discretionary company also stands out for the quality of its omnichannel and digital infrastructure. And assuming consumers do switch back to doing more of their shopping in stores after the danger from the COVID-19 diminishes, Dick's can benefit from the higher foot traffic.