Whether a boy needs to get his first hockey stick and skates, or a few members of a tennis team need strings replaced on their rackets, or a woman training for a marathon needs a new pair of sneakers, FGL Sports is there to help. As Canada’s largest and only national retailer of sporting goods, FGL Sports says it has the comprehensive offering of products that athletes, outdoor activity enthusiasts and sports fans are looking for. But what keeps the company as the leader of the market is its ongoing and steadfast commitment to customer service and value.
Based in Calgary, FGL Sports has more than 12,000 employees operating in more than 500 stores, including Sport Chek, Sports Experts, Atmosphere, National Sports, Intersport, Nevada Bob's Golf, Hockey Experts and S3. The company is owned by Canadian Tire, and with its size, extensive product mix and great price points, FGL Sports believes it has a banner and product mix to suit everyone in Canada.
“We succeed because not only are our locations convenient, but our staff is made of true, active sports enthusiasts,” Vice President of Operations Paul Reid says. “They speak the language and really know how to best serve our customers. Our associates go through 30 to 50 hours of training before they hit the sales floor, and they understand customer service is a complete experience. Service is not just features and benefits of a product – customers can get that information on the Internet – it is important for retailers and service associates to differentiate themselves by building connections and partnerships with our customers.”
In May 2012, FGL Sports embarked on an aggressive expansion strategy, with Sport Chek becoming the company’s “super brand.” It also will grow Atmosphere as its key outdoor lifestyle banner.
Pushing the Technology Envelope
As part of its growth strategy, FGL Sports has a number of flagship stores planned for construction across the country. These new store models will feature innovative elements that have been piloted in the new Sport Chek Retail Lab location that opened in Toronto earlier this year. Reid describes this new concept as a place where technology has been integrated into the retail environment, allowing the company to test and learn the impact of technology on its operations and to facilitate great customer experiences in the store. Nike, Adidas, Reebok, Samsung and Infusion are some of the brands that are testing technology in the new store.
“Our goal with this live lab store is to test and demonstrate the latest in retail technology to deliver the same emotional rush our customers get when they are pursuing the sports and physical activities they love,” President Michael Medline says. “The store will serve as a conduit between customers and their favorite brands, it offers unparalleled levels of customization and is staffed with the strongest product category experts in the industry.”
With the tagline “your better starts here,” the new concept is believed to be the most advanced digital retail space of any in North America. There are 140 digital screens throughout the store, and they allow for personalized content and greater customer interaction with merchandise.
Sport Chek offers 500 different footwear styles, and Adidas created its largest installation in North America that features “digital” shoes on three 55-inch touch screens. When selected by a customer, each shoe contains custom digital content, such as product features, live twitter feeds, videos, images and facts about athletes’ accomplishments while wearing that specific model of shoe. Nike installed its first Nike Shoe VJ Experience in the world, which features a 12-foot high digital wall where customers can use Nike shoes that are custom-built with gaming controller technology to design art and sound.
There is also a place in the store where customers can find the perfect shoe for their sport or activity by participating in a comprehensive gait analysis. Additionally, as North America’s leading ski and snowboard retailer, Sport Chek’s retail lab features one of three Wintersteiger Mercury automated ski and snowboard tuning machines in Canada. Customers can watch their skis and boards being tuned on the most advanced machine in the world, offering razor-sharp edges and eight different base structures.
“We will continue to roll out new technology and push the envelope,” Reid says. “The key is the emotional connection you can make with customers. With the screens, interactivity and design, you can create the same passion as one sees in a sports stadium. Customers are looking more for partnerships than just transactions, and that’s what we deliver.”