NHL Season To Resume

The National Hockey League season may be back on, but will that mean good news for athletic retailers? Analysts say don’t look for a major splash. 

Play in the NHL could resume as soon as Jan. 15, sources said, after a 113-day dispute between the players’ union and the team owners over financials halted the start of the season.
Camilo Lyon, analyst at Canaccord Genuity, said that the end of the lockout was a positive for athletic retailers who sell licensed NHL goods, but noted that the hockey market in the U.S. is small.

“Something is better than nothing, of course. It’s probably more [important for] the broader-based athletic retailers like Dick’s [Sporting Goods],” he said.

Pittsburgh-based Dick’s said on its third-quarter earnings call in November that the loss of an NHL season would have some affect on its earnings, although the company declined to suggest how much.

Sales of NHL merchandise fell 80 percent in December compared to the year-ago period, according to SportScanInfo. (Canton, Mass.-based Reebok is the NHL’s official licensee in the market.)

Still, SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell said sporting goods retailers looking for a big bump when the season resumes may be disappointed.

“Typically what happens in the case of a work stoppage like this is that the fans turn their backs,” he said. “When they start paying again, fans do not flock back to buying apparel. They really punish the teams and the league for taking their games away from them.”

Historically, he added, the buying slowdown lasts longer than the season in question. “The league will suffer this year and into next year,” he said. “It can take two years to build that back to levels seen before the lockout.”