Olympia Sports has more than 230 stores throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic from Maine to Virginia and west to Ohio. “Competitive prices and excellent customer service are some of the key components,” Fitzpatrick says.
The company is remodeling its new stores with a fresh prototype. “We’re going through a bit of a beta test,” Fitzpatrick says. “We’ve just completed remodels in four stores over the last few months. We’re looking to update the look of our merchandising across the board.”
There are new stores set to open this spring and others by mid-summer. “All of our new stores are going to have updated merchandising, particularly the wall systems,” Fitzpatrick says. “We are installing in the stores a much more modern, clean look. Where we used to have slat wall in all of our stores, we’re using more of a paneled system. It really allows the customer to focus on the look of the merchandise, not the horizontal lines behind the merchandise that slatwall oftentimes creates. It just enables us to merchandise our stores better. It focuses all of the attention on the merchandise, which is really where it should be.”
New areas in which to locate stores are chosen based on several factors. “The immediate trade area may not have a huge population,” Fitzpatrick concedes. “Oftentimes, it’s a smaller population where our category of goods aren’t being sold. That’s why you’re not going to see our stores cropping up in downtown Baltimore or Washington, D.C. We’re trying to create convenience for our customers by opening in these underserved markets.”
Olympia Sports has some demographic guidelines for its store locations. “We don’t hold hard and fast to them because different market conditions may allow us to stray from some of those demographic requirements, but in general, we’re probably looking for 25,000 to 35,000 people within five miles,” Fitzpatrick says.
The company locates its stores no more than two hours’ driving time from each other. “The ability to manage in the field from a district field manager perspective becomes very ineffective if they have to spend a day in travel to a store,” Fitzpatrick points out.
One Distribution Center
Olympia Sports’ single 100,000-square-foot distribution center is located at the company’s headquarters in Westbrook, Maine. Distribution center associates wear a scanner on their wrist that allows their hands to be free for picking and packing, and enables them to access the system by utilizing a trigger with their finger. Fitzpatrick estimates that 90 percent of the company’s deliveries are made with its own fleet of approximately 10 tractor-trailers and three straight or box trucks.
A distinguishing characteristic of Olympia Sports is its return policy. “We’ve always had a return policy that is as good as anybody or better than anybody in the industry,” Fitzpatrick says. “We’ve even taken back products that we didn’t sell.
“Our over-arching goal is to make the customer happy,” Fitzpatrick stresses. “Our slogan of ‘Shop with Confidence, Satisfaction Guaranteed’ is one that we post in stores and we take very seriously. We make it very clear to store personnel of all levels that we’ll do what it takes to make a customer happy. By backing a sale with such a customer-friendly return policy, our customers can really feel good about doing business with us over and over again.”