Dunham’s Sports

Steady Performer Sees Opportunities Amidst the Retail Disruption.
Work It: Brand names, big selection. The workwear section at a Dunham’s location in Shelby, NC.

Troy, MI

Our quick scan of Dunham’s digital presence: Top of website homepage in mid-March features a modern graphic of a golfer pointing us to a “2019 Golf Digital Guide” with 70+ products and a flag that alerts us to “Get Coupons.” Products we click on have “Hot Deal” coupons that can be printed and brought in to store for use with purchase. Site points visitors to stores to buy merch. Also highlighted: Dunham’s Facebook page and its loyalty rewards program. A Dunham’s blog contains posts ranging from health and fitness tips to camping necessities. Dunham’s Shooting Sports Warehouse is another section on its website: click through and there is an option to order firearms online and pick up in store.

Facebook: 422K
Twitter: 5.7K

We visited a Dunham’s store in rural Shelby, NC. Top takeaways: Spacious store is clean and well-lit. It is not fancy and there is no carpeting, but this store has lots of products across multiple categories. There is a golf section right up front. Golf, hunt, fish, kayaking, workwear and athleisure are all prominently featured. The hunt, fish and water sports sections are very big. (There is also a toy section.) In apparel, Under Armour and Levi’s brands stand out to us amongst the product mix. Athletic apparel is the most prominent category as we walk through the store. Staff is very friendly and helpful.

The Rundown: Dunham’s Sports operates 237 stores within 22 states covering predominantly the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast markets. Execs at the privately held retailer reported 2018 sales figure to us of $500-$800 million. Dunham’s opened four new stores in 2018 and closed three stores. When customers walk in the door at Dunham’s, the store’s aim is to “offer great value, knowledgeable and helpful service and a world-class brand assortment.”

Background: Regional chain’s roots go back to 1937 when a small shop called Dunham’s Bait & Tackle opened in West Bloomfield, MI. More than eight decades later, the privately owned retail chain’s 237 stores all carry a full line of traditional sporting goods and athletic equipment as well as a wide variety of active and casual sports apparel and footwear. Dunham’s has always been very focused on delivering the name brands customers are looking for across its full assortment, while delivering great value; both tie directly into Dunham’s motto,  “Big Names…Low Prices.”  

2019 Plans: At a time when many other retailers are reducing their store counts, Dunham’s sees opportunities for growth. The Company plans to open at least 10 new and relocated stores in 2019. “We are always opportunistic when it comes to real estate,” David Lynn, president, Dunham’s Sports, tells us. “There has clearly been a lot of disruption in the retail space, but for a company like ours that creates a lot of opportunities.” The focus will remain on finding the right communities at the right price.  

In addition to growing its store count, look for Dunham’s to continue to focus on its in-store experience in the coming year. “In today’s market, it is more important than ever to ensure that our stores are compelling, easy to shop and provide customers with a one-stop shopping experience so there is no need for them to go anywhere else,” says Lynn.  

2018 Developments: While Dunham’s operates in several major metro areas, its primary real estate strategy has been to open new stores in under-served secondary and tertiary markets where “there aren’t usually as many sporting goods opportunities for customers,” explains Lynn. “We like those markets.”

Other retail chains filing for bankruptcy and/or shuttering stores has played into Dunham’s strategy as many of these store closings are in secondary and tertiary markets, where Dunham’s thrives. And the closing of stores such as Toys R Us and Payless have left voids in markets which have provided opportunities for category expansion for Dunham’s that only enhances its reputation as a one-stop shop.

E-commerce: Dunham’s sells only a limited amount of product online, preferring to use the web to drive customers to its stores. Part of Dunham’s success has been making smart decisions and managing risk and company execs say they have held back on ecommerce until they are sure they can make money while continuing to deliver the great value Dunham’s is known for.

Omnichannel Plan: Dunham’s has used digital marketing for years to connect with its customers and it is continuing to expand its digital channels,” says David Palmer, VP marketing & advertising at Dunham’s.  “We have a highly engaged customer base that connects with our brand and our stores across many touchpoints.  We leverage email, social, web, a mobile app, SEM and digital advertising along with more traditional print and in-store marketing to reach our customers along their purchase journey.”   Dunham’s is in the process of implementing new marketing technology, improving data visibility and leveraging A.I. in order to engage its customers in a more personalized way.  “We are trying to find as many ways as we can to interact with our customers,” says Lynn. “We see a lot of opportunity and we are really excited about our path forward here.”

Moving forward, Dunham’s is continuing to invest in its digital footprint and plans to unveil a new website this year. As for a full ecommerce presence, Lynn says, “If and when we do go down that road, we will do it the way we are comfortable and in what we would classify as the right way.”

Outlook: Dunham’s sees advantages in being brick-and-mortar focused. “I don’t think there’s any replacement for walking into a store and being able to pick up an item, whether it is a golf club or a baseball bat or a pair of soccer cleats, and being able to get the feel of it and see it in person and try it on or try it out,” says Lynn. “I think that’s something that customers absolutely appreciate and it’s an experience that you have to have a brick-and-mortar presence to really offer.”