Local Sport Chalet ‘pining for the fjords’

San Marcos Sport Chalet running on empty.

Anybody wanting to shop at Sport Chalet, and apparently there weren’t enough of them, has one last chance to stock up on all merchandise sporting.

Management of the 47-store Southern California sports retailer abruptly pulled the plug this weekend announcing the immediate end to all online sales. Customers were told they had until April 29 to cash in gift cards and rewards certificates or all bets were off locally.

Brick-and-mortar stores, including the San Marcos location at Grand Plaza, 177 S Las Posas Rd., were guaranteed to be open only through April 29. After that, as in the Monty Python dead parrot routine, they’ll probably be pining for the fjords.

Catch as one can, the San Marcos outlet was selling all things sporting for 10 percent off with the discounts expected to climb as everything must go, and soon.

“We’re closing,” Sport Chalet emailed to customers Saturday, April 16. “Thank you for 57 great years.”

Based at La Canada Flintridge, the regional retailer has 40 stores across Southern California, five in Arizona and two at Las Vegas.  San Diego County has four outlets. Aside from San Marcos, other Sport Chalet stores drifting into never-never land are at Mission Valley, Point Loma and University Town Centre.

German immigrants Norbert J. Olberz and his wife Irene Olberz founded the chain in 1959 when they bough a first store at La Canada Flintridge. Actually, as the name implied, the store was a ski shop. As the chain evolved into a sporting goods outlet, headquarters remained there.

The company went public in 1992. A Connecticut company called Vestis Retail Group bought the chain in 2014. The chain employed 1,200 full-time and 1,600 part-time workers as of March 30. 2014.

In an internal memo obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Vestis Chief Executive Mark Walsh said Sport Chalet and another chain, Eastern Mountain Sports, had been on the verge of liquidation when Vestis bought them. Eastern Mountain Sports regained its footing, but Sport Chalet didn’t, “due, in part, to unique competitive pressures.”

Inside Sport Chalet at Grand Plaza, San Marcos.

Inside Sport Chalet at Grand Plaza, San Marcos.

Sport Chalet has struggled financially for years, last reporting an annual profit in 2007. Sport Chalet had more than $52 million in debt when Vestis bought it for $17 million.

The chain has faced growing competition from online retailers, discounters and the likes of Target Corp., whose stores carry the kind of workout merchandise and sports equipment that might interest the casual enthusiast.

Vestis, which is owned by Philadelphia-based Versa Capital Management, also operates Bob’s Stores on the East Coast. Customers will be allowed to use Sport Chalet gift cards and rewards on its other sporting good chains’ e-commerce sites, Vestis said.

With online sales of sporting goods and equipment booming, retail locations have been feeling a bite. The much larger Sports Authority declared bankruptcy in March and closed 140 of its 463 stores, 19 in California, including the one at Valley Parkway, Escondido.

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