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Sport Chalet posts gains

La Cañada-based retail chain reports first profitable quarter in three years.

June 02, 2011|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com

A boost in online sales has helped Sport Chalet post quarterly profits instead of losses for the first time in three years.

The La Cañada Flintridge-based sporting goods giant — a publicly traded company with 3,000 employees and 55 stores in four states — was hit hard by recession, sustaining losses of $52.2 million between April 2008 and March 2009 and another $8.2 million in the 12 months after that.

But according to financial reports released Thursday, things are looking up for the company’s bottom line.

Between Jan. 1 and April 3 (the fourth quarter of the company’s 2011 fiscal year), Sport Chalet posted a profit of $300,000, marking a significant turnaround after 12 straight quarters of taking losses.

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Sales during the quarter totaled $98.2 million, an 8.8% increase over the same period last year. While the size of that increase was largely due to the quarter including an additional business week, sales would have remained 2.4% stronger without the extra time, according to the company.

Internet sales for the quarter increased 60% over the same period last year — the result of a continuing makeover of Sport Chalet’s presence in the digital marketplace, said CEO Craig Levra.

“We’ve been working very hard to replicate our in-store experience online,” said Levra of adding instructional videos, allowing customers to communicate online directly with staff, and reworking distribution channels so that any item available at any physical store can also be purchased online.

Internet sales were up 110% during fiscal year 2011, although in-store sales dropped .4%.

In addition to improving its online customer service strategy, Sport Chalet also hired more in-store sales staff to assist with purchases of high-end and specialty items, Levra said.

“You can’t just set those products on a shelf and expect them to walk out. You need experts on the floor,” said Levra.

Total sales in fiscal year 2011 were $362.5 million, a 2.5% improvement over the previous year that reduced the company’s annual net loss from $8.2 million in FY 2010 to $3 million in FY 2011.

Sales of uniforms and equipment to school sports teams also increased 15% in FY 2011 and 24% in the year’s fourth quarter — “really good numbers when you consider that every school we call on is under tremendous pressure due to budget concerns,” said Levra.

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