In The Market

Olympia Will Be Regional Specialty Play for RSG

Bill Kirkendall tells us what’s next for RSG’s new acquisition.

The October 1 acquisition of 75 Olympia Sports storefronts is the latest maneuver in the Running Specialty Group’s (RSG) broader strategy to assemble a portfolio of active lifestyle companies. With the deal, Denver-based RSG, owned by Critical Point Capital of Manhattan Beach, CA, now has 60 JackRabbit doors across 17 states, the aforementioned Olympia Sports locations across New England and two dotcom “pure plays” in CleverTraining.com and SurfOutfitter.com.

“We are continuing to look for active specialty lifestyle companies that fit our vision, and I look forward to additional acquisitions over the next 12 to 24 months,” RSG CEO and footwear industry veteran Bill Kirkendall told us during a recent podcast.

Under the tutelage of founder and CEO Ed Manganello, family-owned Olympia Sports prospered and expanded steadily in the mid-1990s through the early part of the 21st century by opening in strip centers in local towns that lacked a large retail presence and through localized merchandise assortments.

Kirkendall says localization is very important to RSG and JackRabbit, citing 4,000 events annually that will take place in its stores in 2019, and confirmed a similar strategy will be adopted for the go-forward Olympia doors.

“We’re not looking to be all things to all people with any of our banners,” proclaimed Kirkendall, the one-time president of the former Etonic/Puma USA/Tretorn. “Our vision is to provide a premium experience to those underserved markets [where the acquired Olympia stores are located across New England].”

While Olympia’s longtime merchandise focus on team gear and licensed sports apparel will continue, an unspecified number of locations will feature JackRabbit shop-in-shops to help the banner build more of a performance running business in-store and online. Kirkendall confirmed a 15,000-sq.ft. Olympia in the shadows of Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL’s New England Patriots, is part of the store mix but did not offer any details on special merchandising plans for the location.

As for his 2020 vision of the overall performance running market, which he confirms has “stabilized” in 2019, Kirkendall is banking on building strength.

“There is some terrific product coming into the market/channel that I’ve seen with great innovation,” says Kirkendall. “And you know, product drives this category. I think vendors are doing an excellent job developing innovative, new product that will accelerate the running market in the run specialty channel.”

JackRabbit has enjoyed “tremendous growth” from smaller brands, largely due to their respective innovations, a trend that the CEO sees as good for both the run category plus small and large brands alike.

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