The Story Behind Play It Again Sports
While the majority of sporting goods retailers struggle in a highly competitive environment – both on and offline – Play It Again Sports® has continued to thrive by remaining true to its major point of difference, which began 30 years ago: used products.
Play It Again Sports is the top choice of families with growing kids in communities throughout North America as the cost of sporting goods continues to increase. In many communities, the desire of kids to play sports is strong. But, their parents lack the money to pay for a vast array of equipment needed to play the sport. In more affluent communities, kids outgrow the expensive equipment their parents bought for them after a season or two. Perfectly good football helmets, baseball gloves, ice skates and more end up sitting in the closet or garage. The equipment still has plenty of use left in it, but needs an outlet for parents to bring in to exchange for cash or new equipment that now fits their growing athlete.
Play It Again Sports Makes Winmark a Franchisor
These are not new issues. Winmark Corporation recognized them when it acquired Play It Again Sports in 1988 and began franchising the used sporting goods concept.
During Winmark’s search for its first company to franchise, they sought a business that was both unique in retail and franchising. Winmark found a local chain of four used sporting goods stores that had a very different business model and unique approach to the market – targeting parents with limited income and parents collecting outgrown equipment. Winmark bought the franchise rights to the concept with plenty of differentiation, a one-of-a-kind business model, strong barriers to entry and solid unit-level economics – and became a franchisor.
In those first four years, Winmark learned a lot about franchise growth, including how to expand rapidly and build a national brand. By 1992, Winmark was ready to become the franchisor of another brand – Once Upon A Child.
On Your Mark, Get Set … Grow!
Through franchise development, Play It Again Sports became the largest sporting goods resale franchise in North America. The concept attracts sports enthusiast entrepreneurs who recognize the demand for quality used sporting equipment in their communities. There are now more than 280 stores. The most successful store owners excel at following the franchise system, integrating their stores into their communities and developing a sound advertising and local marketing plan.
The demand for used sports equipment was evident in the revenue being generated at Play It Again Sports stores year after year. Revenue increased by almost 31 percent in 15 years. The average store volume grew from $565,303 in 2001 to $814,253 in 2016. Those stores in 2016 saw an average gross profit of $419,073 (51.4 percent). The top quartile of Play It Again Sports stores had average sales of $1,406,122 with an average gross profit of $711,659 (50.6 percent).*
Today, Play It Again Sports is ranked as a top franchise by Entrepreneur magazine on the publication’s Franchise 500 list. The 2018 list ranked Play It Again Sports at No. 247 overall and No. 2 in the Sports Equipment and Apparel category. The Franchise 500 awarded the ratings based on exceptional results across a number of key performance areas, including financial strength and stability, growth rate and size of the franchise system.
A Formula That Endures
Play It Again Sports still works because the needs of the consumer have not changed in three decades. Families with growing kids still have sporting goods and fitness equipment outgrown by their child and need a place to recoup some of the cost of that equipment. Play It Again Sports allows them a safe place to come and sell their quality used merchandise and get cash back for that fairly expensive merchandise.
On the other side, families with growing kids in sports that are looking to save some money and get more bang for their buck in their budget can still come into a Play It Again Sports store and get high quality used sporting goods and fitness equipment at a fraction of the price of new gear. They can also bring in last season’s equipment to trade in and save even more. And, when their kids outgrow this season’s stuff again, they can bring it in at the end of the season and sell it back to the store.
The Future of Play It Again Sports
The concept, which capitalizes on the rising cost of sports equipment, will continue to thrive for years to come.
The sporting goods industry is incredibly competitive. With equipment constantly changing, and technology making advances in almost every sport, the landscape for new and used sports and fitness equipment is always evolving. And with both online and off-line competitors, it makes for a challenging environment to compete for every disposable dollar.
In order to stay ahead of the competition, Play It Again Sports will continue to focus on what it does best:
- Buy and sell used merchandise and equipment in local communities
- Provide the top customer service in the industry
- Staff stores with the most knowledgeable employees to outfit customers in the right gear at the right price
- Stay involved in their local communities so they are more connected than ever before with the local sports scene
In addition, Play It Again Sports will continue to evolve its ecommerce offering, broadening participation at the franchisee level and offer more used merchandise than any other sporting goods retailer online to our customers.
Now, Winmark Franchise Partners draws on Winmark’s 30 years of franchising experience to serve as a consultant –and potentially investment partner — for entrepreneurs and management teams looking into franchising as a business growth strategy.
The company also provides support and direction to emerging brands that have started to franchise but hit a wall in growth. Winmark Franchise Partners expands upon traditional consulting services to offer investment capital for select proven, sustainable business models.
If you are interested in franchising your business or are an existing franchisor looking for advice, contact us for more information.
*The Average Store numbers are the 2016 Average Gross Sales and Average Gross Profit amounts stated in Item 19 of the 2017 Play It Again Sports® Franchise Disclosure Document (as reported by 270 of the 272 stores that had been in operation at least one year as of December 31, 2016). Of the 270 reporting stores, 104 or 39% of the stores attained or exceeded the Average Gross Sales and 109 or 40% of the stores attained or exceeded the Average Gross Profit. The Top Quartile Average Gross Sales and Average Gross Profit only relates to 67 of the reporting Play It Again Sports® Stores who ranked in the top 25% of the gross sales range. Of the 67 stores in the top quartile, 25 or 37% of the stores attained or exceeded the top quartile Average Gross Sales and 28 or 42% of the stores attained or exceeded the top quartile Average Gross Profit. A new franchisee’s results will likely differ from these results.