Play It Again Sports’ game plan is built on passionate franchisees and its unique concept.
By Chris Petersen
With nearly 300 locations throughout North America, Play It Again Sports is one of the most successful sporting goods retail franchises, and Director Pat Quinn says that’s because even among other sporting goods retailers Play It Again Sports stands apart due its unique concept of providing quality used and competitively priced new sporting goods and fitness equipment. He says the brand’s unique approach of buying and selling used sports equipment makes it valuable to its customers and very attractive to potential franchisees. “I think what makes Play It Again Sports attractive is that it’s a very unique concept,” Quinn says. “There’s really no other business that offers this type of value-driven concept to customers.”
Founded in 1983 in Minneapolis, Play It Again Sports started franchising in 1988, which led to the creation of what is now Winmark Corporation. Winmark franchises Play It Again Sports along with Once Upon a Child, Music Go Round, Plato’s Closet and Style Encore. In addition to franchising those businesses, Winmark Corporation also operates leasing solutions in Winmark Capital and Wirth Business Credit. “Our mission at Winmark as a whole is really to help create, support and finance businesses,” Quinn says.
Although the sporting goods segment has experienced some instability in recent years – most notably with Sports Authority and Sports Chalet in liquidation now – Play It Again Sports continues to thrive, bringing new franchisees into the brand and experiencing consistent growth over the last several years. Quinn says the brand has positioned itself to provide better value to customers than any other sporting goods retailer in the industry, and some recent initiatives are working to strengthen that position. With its combination of a unique concept, dedicated franchisees and willingness to innovate, Play It Again Sports has the pieces in place to be a winning team for a long time, Quinn says.
At the core of Play It Again Sports’ success is its concept, which is centered on the buying and selling of used sports equipment. By doing so, Play It Again Sports serves customers looking for value in getting cash or credit for their used equipment as well as customers looking for value from purchasing that equipment at much lower prices than they would pay for brand-new equipment. “Consumers today are looking for value, and value comes in many different ways,” Quinn says.
This is especially true considering the enormous popularity of youth sports today. Quinn says that with so many children playing in so many youth sports leagues, families are under significant pressure to find equipment that fits their budgets. As kids grow out of equipment and into new sports, Play It Again Sports provides families with the opportunity to trade in their old equipment and get the equipment they need for the next level or another sport altogether. “That allows families to keep their children active, and keep them in sports,” Quinn says.
Another clear advantage Play It Again Sports has over other sporting goods retailers is that Winmark allows its franchisees to develop strong ties with the communities they serve. Quinn says Winmark doesn’t mandate corporate relationships or advertising on its franchisees, so they are free to support any local youth sports organizations or charities they wish. “Everything is done at the local level, so all of our stores have that opportunity and they do take advantage of it,” Quinn says.
Quinn says the sporting goods industry is in a state of flux right now, as many chains are feeling the effects of too much growth in storefronts within the industry. For Play It Again Sports, however, the brand has taken some steps to take advantage of the loss of certain competitors while providing greater value to its customer base.
One of the biggest changes to come in recent years is the growth of the used business. Every year the franchisees have been surpassing the previous year’s record in annual used sales of sporting goods and fitness equipment. Quinn says Play It Again Sports stores sales mix of new and used sports and fitness equipment is 60 percent new and 40 percent used. Where in previous years the mix was as low as 80 percent new and only 20 percent used. “Because of our franchisees growth in acquiring more quality used sports gear, Play It Again Sports stores can continue to offer high value, quality used sports gear to even more families.
“Today’s customers have limited time to shop and when they do shop for their sporting goods needs, research indicates they are reducing their shopping choices to two locations,” Quinn adds. “Because Play It Again Sports offers new sports gear to go along with our quality Used sports gear, we are able to provide families with the complete solution to their sports and activity needs in one location.” He says that the large footprint of the Play It Again Sports brand means it has enough buying power to offer prices on new sports gear and fitness equipment that is competitive with big-box retailers.
Quinn says Play It Again Sports also has recognized the opportunity presented by online sales, and has refocused its efforts on building a robust ecommerce platform to help its franchisees. The brand’s new ecommerce site was launched last year in a few stores, giving customers the option to buy online and pick up at their local Play It Again Sports location. Quinn says franchisees benefit from that model because it generates additional traffic to the store for sales as well as purchases of more used equipment while maintaining their connections to the community.
Play It Again Sports adds new franchisees every year through new stores and resale opportunities, and Quinn says Winmark continues to look for more new and passionate sports enthusiasts who want to “Play For A Living” and join the Winmark family. “We’re not standing still and waiting for everyone to find us,” he says. “We are active in the digital space throughout North America and at the local store level too, communicating who we are and what our brand can offer their community and their family.”
As the Play It Again Sports brand continues to grow, Quinn says its franchisees will continue to be the foundation for its success. By selecting franchisees who love sports and love their communities, Play It Again Sports will be securing its future, Quinn says. “We can train retail, we can even train the business model, but to me it’s really a passion for sports and a passion for the community involvement that makes a difference,” he says.