Business

Sports Authority files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy; Fresno store’s fate unknown

Fresno once had two Sports Authority stores, opposite each other near North Blackstone Avenue. The store west of Blackstone Avenue, near Bed, Bath & Beyond, closed in 2012. The space reopened as a Sprouts grocery store in 2013. The Sports Authority in River Park shopping center remains open.
Fresno once had two Sports Authority stores, opposite each other near North Blackstone Avenue. The store west of Blackstone Avenue, near Bed, Bath & Beyond, closed in 2012. The space reopened as a Sprouts grocery store in 2013. The Sports Authority in River Park shopping center remains open. Fresno Bee file

Sports Authority is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The retailer said Wednesday it plans to close or sell about 140 stores and two distribution centers, in Denver and Chicago. The Englewood, Colo., company has 463 stores in 41 states and Puerto Rico. The store closings are expected to take up to three months.

The company has not released a list of which stores it will close. The central San Joaquin Valley area has one Sports Authority store, in Fresno’s River Park.

For years, Fresno had the odd situation of having two Sports Authority stores within half a mile of each other, on opposite sides of North Blackstone Avenue. One location, near Bed, Bath and Beyond, was a Sportmart until Sports Authority bought the company in 2003.

Both Sports Authority locations made money, so the company kept them open, the Sports Authority CEO told The Bee, until 2012, when one was closed. A Sprouts Farmer Market grocery store opened at the location in 2013.

Sports Authority stores will remain open and run on normal schedules during the Chapter 11 process, the company said. Its website will continue to function, and the chain plans to honor warranties on items purchased at its stores or online.

“We are taking this action so that we can continue to adapt our business to meet the changing dynamics in the retail industry,” CEO Michael Foss said in a written statement. The executive said the company needs fewer stores as consumers increasingly shift to online shopping.

The retail industry as a whole has struggled with the consumer move to online shopping, trying to find ways to lure customers to brick-and-mortar stores instead. Macy’s Inc. has opened Macy’s Backstage to go head to head with discount retailer T.J. Maxx. And J.C. Penney Co. is using store-label offerings to fight against pricing pressures from online rivals and recently launched a new campaign called “Get Your Penney’s Worth,” which offers certain store-label items for pennies.

In a letter to customers posted on the company’s website, Foss said Sports Authority’s long-term plan includes upgrading stores and improving its website.

Foss said The Sports Authority Inc., which is privately held, has received interest from third parties that may want to invest in or buy some or all of the business. The company plans to continue evaluating all of its options, he added.

Sports Authority said it expects to have sufficient liquidity during the Chapter 11 process when factoring in cash from operations and anticipated access to up to $595 million in debtor-in-possession financing.

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