(This story was updated on 6/27/2023.)
Western U.S. outdoor chain retailer Christy Sports is on the move, expanding its retail footprint in the face of the overall challenging business environment for the outdoor industry.
Gary Montes de Oca, chief development and strategy officer for Christy Sports, said the business is in a growth phase.
“Lots of really exciting things happening,” he said. “Lots of work going on in terms of investment in new markets and expansion.”
That includes opening several new stores in Colorado that Vail Resorts vacated earlier this year.
Founded in 1958 and headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado, Christy Sports has more than 60 locations in Colorado, Utah, Montana, and Washington. Private equity firm TZP Group LLC owns the company.
Montes de Oca spoke with The Daily about expansion plans and the overall business climate, as well as how the hunt for a new CEO is going after Matt Gold exited the company earlier this year.
Within a 12-month period, Christy will open stores in Big Sky, Montana, Telluride, and Aspen.
The Big Sky location is the second Christy-owned store in that town. Customers can shop and rent or return skis at either the new store, Christy Sports Town Center, which is down the road from the Big Sky Resort, or at the shop at the base of the resort.
The company is also opening several locations in Telluride. It has taken over an “iconic” location on Main Street formerly run by Vail Resorts.
“Like the Big Sky location, that is going to be a really big year-round location for us,” Montes de Oca said.
In addition, Christy Sports is opening two new stores in the Telluride Mountain Village.
About two weeks ago, Christy also opened a new shop inside the St. Regis Aspen Resort.
The Colorado locations are all properties that Vail Resorts’ SSI Venture closed earlier this year when it shuttered 19 stores in the state.
Montes de Oca said the bidding process for the locations was “very competitive. There were a lot of people interested. Those are great locations.”
At one of their locations in Telluride Christy Sports in seeing success with what it calls a “shop in shop,” where about 80% of the store’s merchandise is supplied by Cotopaxi.
The company is also doing a similar partnership with the SAXX apparel brand.
“SAXX is probably best known for active underwear, but they also have a casual lifestyle apparel side that fits really well with our active outdoor enthusiast guests,” Montes de Oca said.
Another exciting brand for Christy Sports is Murf e-bikes. Montes de Oca said the company sees e-bikes as a way to lower the barriers to entry for people who want to experience mountain biking.
In April, CEO Matt Gold left Christy Sports after he and the board of directors mutually agreed to part ways.
Gold was appointed CEO in February 2017. Prior to joining Christy’s, Gold had more than two decades of experience building consumer businesses and brands at sporting goods company Amer Sports Corporation.
“Matt did a lot of great things here,” Montes de Oca said. “He will always be a member of the Christy Sports family.”
Montes de Oca said the search for his replacement is ongoing.
“As you can probably guess, we’re in a very aspirational industry,” he said. “There is no shortage of interest in the CEO position.”
Christy Sports has retained a search firm that is helping process the applicants.
Montes de Oca declined to give a timeline for the new hire but said it will likely take several months.
“We certainly would want someone in place before we get into peak winter readiness season,” he added.
There’s no denying that outdoor participation numbers have come back to a more normal level compared to what the industry saw during the pandemic, Montes de Oca said.
Christy Sports has not been immune to the problems others in the outdoor industry have faced coming out of the pandemic, including inventory overhang and softer consumer demand.
“We definitely saw a bit of a correction last year after the incredible growth we experienced during the pandemic. But there’s a lot we see that’s encouraging and believe there is boundless future growth opportunity in the outdoor industry,” Montes de Oca said.
He added that while there’s no doubt the pandemic brought new entrants into the sport, the industry should expect that business will eventually revert to a more traditionally appropriate growth rate.
“Those pandemic years were artificially inflated by circumstances,” Montes de Oca said. “Some of that will stick and some of that will dissipate into other activities.”
The supply chain disruption that happened during the pandemic created a shortage of hardgoods, for one.
“Everyone ordered to overcompensate for the fact that we couldn’t get hardgoods in the quantities we needed during that change in outdoor participation,” Montes de Oca said. “Everyone ordered more than they normally would have for a historically normal year. Then you’re in a situation where that demand is not the same as it was.”
As far as bright spots, Christy Sports has seen a nice uptick in its apparel business.
“We’re really encouraged by some of things we’re seeing there,” Montes de Oca said.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at email@example.com.