- The Washington Times - Friday, April 24, 2009

Under normal circumstances, the opening of a new Adidas store in Tysons Corner wouldn’t be that big of a deal. These days, though, it’s a notable occurrence because retailers have spent a lot more time shuttering outlets than opening them.

The 6,500-square-foot store at Tysons Corner Center, complete with Adidas’ full line of fashion and sports apparel, could be an anomaly. Or it might indicate that sports retailers and their manufacturing partners are charging forward, even as consumers have reduced their overall spending. It also suggests that parts of the D.C. area are somewhat insulated from the economic downturn.

“I think we’re being careful as well, but we have tremendous confidence in this market and this location, and that’s how we look at it,” said Mark Friedman, vice president of retail for Adidas America. “The D.C. market has proved itself to be more resilient than others. It goes up when it goes up but doesn’t seem to go down like some others do.”

Confidence in the market aside, Adidas has dealt with slower sales. The German company’s sales in Canada and North America dropped 14 percent in 2008, but that has not kept the company from moving forward with plans for expansion throughout the United States. By year’s end, Adidas expects to open as many as 11 new U.S. stores.

“Our brand is strong internationally, and we’re building presence with our own retail stores here in the United States,” Friedman said. “We remain very excited to bring our own stores on our own terms into the marketplace, and we feel it grows our brand.”

An analysis of wholesale shipments of sporting goods and apparel suggests people are buying less than a year ago but that sales have not fallen off the table as in other sectors. The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association earlier this month reported $74.35 billion in wholesale shipments of sporting goods, sports apparel and athletic footwear in 2008, down from $77.38 billion in 2007. Shipments of basketball and walking shoes dropped significantly, while it appears stores are selling less exercise equipment, golf clubs and skis. Sales of ice hockey and camping equipment were among the few segments that rose.

“This was a tough year, as evidenced by the first decline in manufacturer shipments since 2003,” association president Tom Cove said. “And given the overwhelming economic uncertainty at present, it’s hard to say 2009 will be better. However, despite the weak economy and rising costs of doing business, there is no indication that Americans are less involved in sports, outdoors and fitness activities than before the recession. And history indicates giving them up is one of the last sacrifices dedicated participants are willing to make.”

Recent financial results of top sports retailers and manufacturers paint a gloomy picture. Sales at Dick’s Sporting Goods rose 6 percent in 2008, but the company reported a net loss of $35 million - compared with a profit of $155 million in 2007. Nike said profits fell 47 percent in its most recent quarter, and it reportedly will lay off as many as 1,400 workers. Under Armour reported net income of $38.2 million in 2008, down from $52.6 million in 2007, though it recently unveiled its new line of running shoes.

It remains to be seen whether the new Adidas store is a bellwether of better economic times for the sporting goods industry. At the least, it’s an example of one company moving forward.

• Tim Lemke can be reached at tlemke@washingtontimes.com.

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