What is this career about?
Essentially, a sporting goods career is all about retail. However, it’s a very specialized sort of retail, and having knowledge of what’s going on in sports and sports culture is a must for all employees. People will come into stores looking for the new trainers that Cam Newton was wearing, or the racing flat that the mile world record was just broken in. This industry is about helping your customers find what they need, educate them about new things and ideas that might help their performance, as well as being friendly, courteous, and providing excellent customer service.
What growth is likely?
As of writing this, there were about 2,000 dedicated sporting goods store located in the United States. Many of them are large chain stores like Gander Mountain or Dick’s Sporting Goods, although there are several smaller shops with just one or two locations that do just as well given their smaller size. Stores have seen an increase in business in recent years, and this has helped to solidify the existing stores, and has encouraged more locations to open.
The online availability of many items has proved to slow the growth of this industry, but it appears that most of the damage that internet sales can do is long gone. The biggest and most competitive stores have either initiated their own online sales departments, or they have specialized to a point where online sales do not really affect their bottom line. You see this for bigger items like kayaks, treadmills, or even firearms, where transporting them via the postal system is unrealistic. The good news about this is that the stores that are open are far more likely to have a solid business model and not be likely to disappear anytime soon. It has also created a whole new line of business for shops as many people will shop online, place their orders there, and then go into the store to pick up what they’ve purchased. This requires more employees and more responsibility, which in turn helps create more jobs.
Entry level jobs like stockers and cashiers tend to start out making between $9.00 and $9.75 an hour, depending on the store and the location. Pay rate goes up from here, which is encouraging, especially after you have gained some experience in the industry. Supervisory positions and management roles pay more, starting at around $10.50 per hour for supervisors. Management roles will have pay that is associated with their store’s performance and the location of the store, but expected salary begins around $45,000 a year for new managers.
And because many stores are now chains, there are often regional management positions and corporate roles that need to be filled, as well. These can make upward of six figures a year, depending upon the level of success of the company and the role that you are applying for.
How to succeed?
Success in a sporting goods store career hinges around a few different things. Of those that you can directly control are your attitude, your work ethic, and your willingness to expand your role in the store. For example, it is a must that you come to work for every shift on time and ready to go. That doesn’t mean being five minutes late, and then take another five minutes in the backroom to get ready. It means being early, and out on the floor exactly when you’re supposed to be. Studies have shown that a good deal of retail employee success begins just by being at work on time regularly.
Also, you probably have a love of sports if you are applying to a career here, and that’s a great start. But, if you are a big baseball and football fan, if you want to grow within this career, you should be willing to learn about trends in other sports that maybe you have no interest in, like jogging or golf. Being able to fluently discuss any sport and help people find what they are looking for and point out new items that they could benefit from will help you to advance far faster than the average employee. This means going outside of your comfort zone, but it does show your willingness to help the customer, and that is the prime concern of a career in any sort of retail industry.
Who should apply?
If you are thinking about applying to a job at a sporting goods store, ask yourself why, first. Are you passionate about exercise or a certain sport? Do you have a desire to share that passion and to help other people develop their own? If yes, this is going to be a great career choice.
Most stores look for employees to be at least 18 years old and have a high school degree or a GED, although this is not a steadfast rule. Some smaller stores will make exceptions, and hire employees as young as 16 if they have the appropriate documentation. If your store has a firearms department, be aware that it is probably a legal mandate that the store perform a background check on you before considering you as an applicant.
You do not need past retail experience to apply to a sporting goods store—in fact, many people have this career as their first job. Experience does help, though, especially if you are applying in a competitive area. What will help you more than retail experience is having a background in sports, being willing to learn, and being excited about the sports industry and wanting to help others.