There’s nothing like a pandemic to remind us of the role sports and the outdoors play in our lives. Our love of sports comes partly from our biology, exercise being as important to our health as diet and sleep. It is also a product of our recent history; before films, TV, and the internet, sports were one of our only means of entertainment.
In recent years commentators have spoken of the death of the great American sporting goods store. And while it is true that many sporting stores have filed for bankruptcy, the real story is one of consolidation and a move online. Today many of America’s most-loved sports equipment retailers remain, but with fewer physical branches and a greater focus on ecommerce. Several new players have also come into the market, causing the market as a whole to bring down prices.
Here we offer you our list of the top 10 sporting goods stores in America, based on factors like popularity, product range, and accessibility. We’ve gone for the broad definition of sports – encompassing everything from ball sports like basketball, baseball, and golf, to outdoor activities like camping, fishing, and kayaking.
Founded in 1948, Dick’s is now the nation’s largest sporting goods store and is listed on the Fortune 500. Dick’s has 850 physical stores across America, so there’s a good chance it operates the closest sporting goods store to your home. It’s big online, ranking #1 among online sporting goods stores for web traffic and #70 among all apps on the App store.
The great thing about the Dick’s website and mobile app is the wide range of footwear, apparel, and equipment to suit all types of sports and outdoor activities. Dick’s regularly runs online promos, making it a good option for saving money on bulk purchases.
Academy Sports + Outdoors was founded in 1938, making it one of the longest continuously existing sporting goods retailers in America. It has 259 physical stores in 16 states, around half in Texas and the rest spread around the South and Midwest. Its ecommerce store serves shoppers in all 50 states and receives around 16-18 million visitors each month.
The Academy website offers a wide range of apparel, shoes, and sports accessories for all sports and outdoor activities. The site is very user-friendly and is designed in a way to make it easy to find discounts to suit your shopping habits. It even has a dedicated section for home and outdoor living, with everything from grills to card games to dog supplies.
Big 5 Sporting Goods was founded in California in 1955 and expanded with the acquisitions of Sportswest and Sportsland from Pay ‘n Save. Today it has 434 stores spread throughout 11 Western states. Its website serves the entire country and receives about 2-3 million visitors per month.
Although it has a strong selection of sports/fitness apparel and footwear, Big 5 is best for other outdoors activities. That’s because its Ecommerce store has a wide range of products to do with outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and hunting.
Champs Sports is a subsidiary of Foot Locker, Inc and is one of the largest specialty athletic footwear and apparel retailers in America. It has more than 540 stores located throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Its ecommerce store has all the same products you can find in store.
This is probably the best sporting goods store if you’re looking solely for shoes and clothing. You won’t find outdoor gear here, but you will find one of the best selections of footwear and apparel from big brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma, and Champion.
Founded in Missouri in 1971, Bass Pro Shops now owns a number of retail outlets throughout the U.S. (and Canada), the best-known being Outdoor World. It also operates an ecommerce site under the Bass Pro Shops name serving customers across the United States.
Bass Pro Shops is a pure outdoor goods company, with items for fishing, boating, shooting, hunting, and camping. Visit its website and you’ll find regular flash promos as well as special discounts for military personnel. It also offers a membership scheme where you earn club points for shopping at Bass Pro Shops and subsidiaries.
Cabela’s was purchased by Bass Pro Shops in 2017. However, it continues to operate under the Cabela’s name and deserves its own place on this list. Although it is best known for its mail-order catalogs, Cabela’s is growing online and also has a user-friendly iPhone app.
Cabela’s is first and foremost a specialty retailer of outdoor recreation equipment – particularly hunting and fishing. The best thing on its website is the ‘Bargain Cave’, where you can find sales, rebates, and more in one place. Like parent company Bass Pro Shops, it’s big on flash sales and military discounts.
Recreational Equipment, Inc, best known as just REI, is a major retailer of sporting goods, camping gear, travel equipment, and clothing. Like many companies that deal with the great outdoors, it is based in Washington state. Founded in 1938, it now has physical stores in 40 states and a website that serves the whole country.
REI’s website is quite simply one of the best places on the internet to find outdoor gear. It has literally all the camping and hiking equipment you could want, as well as products for cycling, climbing, paddling, running, snow sports, travel, and yoga.
Fanatics is an outlier on this list, with its focus on official sports apparel and merchandise. As an official partner of the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and PGA, the Fanatics website is quite simply the best place on the internet to find official apparel for your favorite sports team.
What we like best about Fanatics is how responsive they are to trends. When we checked their website, we found face coverings for Big 4 sports teams and college sports teams. What’s more, they were promising donations to various charities for each sale of a licensed face covering.
Decathlon has more than 1,500 stores in 49 countries, making it the largest sporting goods retailer in the world. In late 2019 it opened its first US ‘lab store’ in San Francisco and launched a pilot website serving customers throughout California. According to Decathlon, the aim is to test the American market.
What sets Decathlon apart from other sporting goods stores is its attention to creating separate brands for each individual sport. Given the success of Decathlon around the world, we’re looking forward to seeing how they perform in the United States.
Nike really needs no introduction here, being the most recognizable sports brand on the planet. The reason it makes this list of sporting goods stores is its online dominance. With around 100 million visitors each month, Nike.com is the largest sports brand on the internet.
Nike.com has the full range of official Nike products. You can find Nike stuff at most of the other retailers on this list, but Nike.com is the place to go for dedicated Nike fans.