Sport Chalet Locations Closing, Struggling Sporting Goods Chain Halts Online Sales

Sporting goods chain Sport Chalet is closing all of its retail locations and halting all online sales. On Saturday, the company announced going-out-of-business sales at its 47 stores without explanation.

“We’re closing. Thank you for 57 great years,” Sport Chalet told customers in an email message. “We hope to see you at our store closing sales.”

As reported by the LA Times, the regional sports chain currently has 40 locations in California, five in Arizona, and two in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sport Chalet has not said precisely how many employees are affected by the store shutdowns. In March, 2014, the company employed roughly 1,200 full-time and 1,600 part-time workers.

Customers entering many Sport Chalet locations in California were met with signs and banners reading “Everything must go” and “All Sales are Final No Returns.”

All Sport Chalet locations will be closing within weeks. Many Sport Chalet customers were surprised to see store closing signs posted at many retail locations. [Photo by AP Photo/Reed Saxon]“This store is going to really be missed. The others will, too,” said Marlon Tolbert, who often shops at a Sport Chalet near his job. “I didn’t buy anything today, but I’m a big sports fan and like to come in and just look around.”

“I’m kind of bummed. I had no idea. Now where am I going to go? I’m not a big fan of other sporting goods stores,” said Cindy Vasquez.

“It’s the end of an era,” said shopper Jennifer Meneses. “I bought my first flip-flops at Sport Chalet when I moved to California.”

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Sport Chalet was started by German immigrants Norbert and Irene Olberz in 1959. The couple took out a $5,000 loan and bought a small ski gear shop in La Canada Flintridge, California. Over time, the company grew into a publicly traded company with 51 locations scattered throughout the southwestern United States, mainly in southern California.

At its height, many Sport Chalet locations were over 35,000 square feet and included dive pools as well as scuba classes. Initially selling specialty items like mountain-climbing gear and wetsuits, the chain eventually expanded to include products that appeal to even the casual sports enthusiast. The company prided itself on employing knowledgeable and well-trained workers who had significant experience in their particular departments.

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Connecticut conglomerate Vestis Retail Group bought the company two years ago. Industry analysts had been predicting for weeks that either Vestis or Sport Chalet would file for bankruptcy protection and shut down its retail locations.

According to Vestis, they are currently considering every option regarding the future of Sport Chalet. They also own sporting retailers Bob’s Stores and Eastern Mountain Sports. Customers with unused Sport Chalet gift cards and rewards can redeem them on the retail websites of these other Vestis stores.

When Vestis first purchased Sport Chalet in 2014 for $17 million, the retail chain was on the brink of closing. Via internal memo, Vestis CEO Mark Walsh stated Sport Chalet suffered from some “unique competitive pressures” and never made a full recovery.

Increasing competition from online retailers like Amazon and big-chain discounters such as Wal-Mart has placed Sport Chalet stores in a losing position for years. The last time the sports store made a profit was in 2007, and it owed $52 million in debt when acquired by Vestis.

The closing of Sport Chalet’s locations is just another in a line of other retailers fraught with problems of a changing marketplace. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, retail giant Sports Authority filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced it was closing 140 of its 450 locations by the end of 2016.

According to Sport Chalet, locations will continue to honor gift cards, store credits, and loyalty rewards at least until April 29. Any equipment left at the stores for repair must also be picked up by customers before the end of the month, as well. While its online sales storefront has been shut down, no official store closing date has been released, but the company said it will be within the next “several weeks.”

[Photo by AP Photo/Reed Saxon]