Dick’s Sporting Items CEO Hobart says the pandemic has boosted the out of doors lifestyle

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Lauren Hobart, President and Board of Directors of Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc., speaks during Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Washington, DC, the United States, on Tuesday, October 22, 2019.

Sarah Silberner | Bloomberg | Getty Images

When Dick’s Sporting Goods switched to “conservation mode” in the early days of the pandemic, a surprising trend emerged that continues to fuel its business to this day, CEO Lauren Hobart said.

People started walking and running in the neighborhood. You started golfing. They hugged a new work uniform made of leggings and training tops. And they converted garages and basements into gyms.

Hobart said people have learned to dress and spend their time differently and the sporting goods retailer is seeing signs that the habits will continue. Sales of outdoor gear for hobbies like golfing and cycling haven’t slowed, she said.

“I actually believe that people have fundamentally changed their lifestyle,” Hobart said in an interview at CNBC’s Evolve Global Summit on Wednesday. “People will certainly return and vacation. There may be more disposable income in the market, but I think there is a permanent shift towards the outdoors and active life and sportswear.”

Hobart took over the top leadership role for the company in February as the pandemic continued to challenge many retailers and slow down retail traffic. But Dick’s has excelled as a resilient retailer during the global health crisis. It accelerated its rollout from roadside pickup and focused on e-commerce.

The company’s dynamism has continued over the past few months. In the first quarter, which ended May 1, sales in the same store rose 115% year over year as families stocked up on youth equipment as kids’ team sports resumed and people issue stimulus checks. The strong quarter prompted the company to raise its financial outlook for the full year.

Dick’s stocks are up about 66% since the start of the year. On Wednesday lunchtime, the company’s shares were trading at around $ 93.34 and the market value was $ 8.33 billion.

Dick’s wants to grow and fight off his rivals. This spring, Dick’s launched an exclusive athleisure line for men and opened an experience-oriented store. The store, called House of Sport, is the largest of all time with an indoor climbing wall, putting green and outdoor track.

Hobart said, however, that one challenge remained persistent: moving goods around the world. The problem of congested ports and Covid-19 outbreaks in other countries has plagued many retailers, forcing companies like Home Depot to get creative to keep up with demand.

“The problems with the supply chain keep baffling me,” she said. “It always comes when we think we have things back in stock and under control, and then there are new problems.”

She said the retailer still has an “attack team” dedicated to these issues. In some cases, inventory was flown in by air freight. In other cases, instead of expecting brands to distribute products to distribution centers, the company has hauled truckloads of goods out of ports, and has waived typical standards, such as having goods neatly organized or displayed on hangers.

After more than a year of practice, she said Dick’s learned to be more nimble and flexible and ended up “developing a pretty good muscle” with the new approach to the supply chain.

“It keeps me up – but not very long – at night,” she said.