Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Lauren Hobart on Reinventing Outdoor Retail and Female Leadership in a Male-Dominated Industry

Lauren Hobart is leading a ship that is heading in the right direction.

Last November, Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. announced its long-term succession plan for Ed Stack, who assumed the executive chairman role while remaining chief merchant, effective Feb. 1. Hobart, the company’s president at the time, was unanimously elected CEO by its board of directors, while retaining her president title.

Since then, the sporting goods retail giant has unleashed several initiatives to expand its physical footprint, attract more shoppers and inspire consumers — all while reaping the benefits of the athletic and outdoor shopping boom. In Q2, Dick’s posted record sales and earnings, with a 45% increase in revenue compared with the same period in 2019.

While other companies have pulled back on brick-and-mortar expansion, Dick’s has launched several successful new concepts, including the experiential House of Sport featuring a turf field, running track, rock-climbing wall, batting cage, putting green and more. It also made a bigger play for the off-price channel with the new Going, Going, Gone! stores.

Most recently, Dick’s Sporting Goods opened the first location of its new outdoor banner, dubbed Public Lands. The store, which is located in Cranberry Township, Pa., spans 50,000 square feet and includes a massive footwear section featuring shoes for hiking, running, outdoor lifestyle and more.

At the same time, under Hobart’s leadership, the company has been working to build stronger connections to female consumers. During Women’s History Month in March, it revealed the “Inside Moves” campaign that highlighted the female leaders at the company and gave credibility to its messaging about opportunities for women in sports.

And last week, Dick’s announced it entered into a multiyear agreement with the WNBA to become the league’s official sporting goods partner — and its largest national merchandise retailer.

At the grand opening of Public Lands on Friday, Hobart spoke with FN about why this new outdoor retail concept can be successful, plus how she’s navigating as a female leader in a male-dominated industry.

What does Public Lands mean to the Dick’s Sporting Goods portfolio?

Lauren Hobart: “Public Lands enables us to target a different consumer from who the core Dick’s Sporting Goods consumer is. The explorer who’s going to be the customer for Public Lands seeks a life outside and we want to fill every single one of their needs, no matter what level they are. Whether they’re beginners or true enthusiasts climbing the highest heights, we want to be able to provide the best gear for them. We also have an incredible mission with Public Lands to celebrate and protect our public lands for all, and the ‘for all’ is very important because we are trying to open up the outdoors for everyone.”

What gives you the confidence that Public Lands will be a success?

LH: “I know this is going to be a success for Dick’s Sporting Goods because it’s so right for where the consumer is right now with people wanting to get outside and live their best life outdoors. We have a very welcoming and approachable way that we’re going to be engaging with people who want to be outdoors, so they can find the perfect gear for them no matter what their level is. It’s going to be an exciting experience when you come into Public Lands: There’s a climbing wall, there will be cooking demos, there will be a lot of education.”

What is the level of excitement for Public Lands internally?

LH: “We are so excited for many reasons. We have the opportunity to reinvent the outdoor category and how people shop today. The people at Dick’s always live with a passion and a vision and a purpose, and we’ve been focused on youth sports and golf, but this enables us to bring that same passion about getting people outside to the outdoor category. It feels very natural to our Dick’s vision to be launching this concept for our customers.”

Public Lands
A look inside the first-ever Public Lands store in Cranberry Township, Pa.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Public Lands

You were elevated to CEO in February. How are you settling into your new role?

LH: “I love my job, I love my new role, I love this company. We’ve done a nice job with a very well-planned succession. I’ve been working in tandem with Ed Stack for 10 years now, we’ve developed an incredible partnership and we’ve been working on this succession for the past four years. It feels amazingly smooth and seamless, and I’m just thrilled to be able to serve in this role.”

What has your experience been like since your role changed?

LH: “Being a CEO versus a president, I’m still focused on our team. That is my primary objective. But I do have to be out a bit more in the market and advocating on behalf of the business and the team — and I love that part of the job. It gets me out more, it gets me talking about Dick’s Sporting Goods with people who are interested in talking about it and it’s been really rewarding.”

What have been some of your biggest — or proudest moments — since assuming the new title? 

LH: “In general, I am so proud of how this company has navigated through the pandemic and been able to not just react and protect our company, but grow through this incredibly challenging time. Since taking this specific role, I’m proud of what we’ve been doing on behalf of girls and women. We’ve launched many initiatives so girls and women have more access and representation in sports. Maybe the one moment that I was most proud of is we put our entire female leadership team in a campaign and showed the world that there are incredible women leading at Dick’s Sporting Goods. I think it surprised people. I got a lot of comments from parents of girls saying, ‘Thank you for showing my daughter that anybody could be at the top.’ We’ve been focusing on women and girls for a long time and have done incredible work advocating for girls in sports and celebrating female athletes, but this year we’ve taken it to a new level. It just culminated [last week] when we launched a sponsorship with the WNBA, who have been amazing partners, but we’ve never been an official partner before. The love that it is generating has been incredibly rewarding.”

Dick's Sporting Goods Female Senior Leaders
The Dick’s Sporting Goods “Inside Moves” campaign featuring the company’s women leaders.
CREDIT: DICK'S Sporting Goods, Inc.

What are the priorities for Dick’s Sporting Goods in 2022? 

LH: “We have so many initiatives underway in our business right now, and I feel we’re in a very fortunate position. 2022 is going to be all about growing our core business as well as some of these new initiatives. With the Dick’s Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy businesses, we have so many growth opportunities there, and we’re working on House of Sport, bringing great experiences into these stores and changing the way people shop and interact. We have a whole omnichannel experience that’s just getting better with curbside. We just launched our Golf Galaxy Performance Centers, which is a more experiential, service-driven model for golfers. And we have several new initiatives, including Public Lands and our Going Going Gone! clearance concept.”

What does it mean to you to be one of the few women CEOs today?

LH: “I’m incredibly honored to be among a small group of female CEOs — I think there are 41 female CEOs in the Fortune 500. To be a part of that group is just unbelievably humbling and exciting. I do think there’s also a responsibility in showing girls and women everywhere that anybody can do anything. I take that responsibility seriously. When you see people like you in jobs, you can picture your own self in that job, it gives them confidence that they can go for their dreams. And then to be CEO of a sporting goods company, it just makes me smile because it’s perhaps a little more unexpected to see a woman at the top in this industry. But I will tell you that there has been nothing holding me back. I’ve been grateful for every mentor I’ve had in my life, and I’ve been grateful for Ed Stack, the CEO here who saw potential in me, and I hope that this shows everybody that they can do whatever they want to do, that women and girls can be whoever they want to be.”

Do you have a network of CEOs to lean on?

LH: “I have an incredible network. First of all, I have amazing teammates here at Dick’s who are just wonderful. I also have an incredible network of people — former bosses and mentors when I was at Pepsi and an incredible group of CEOs that have somewhat taken me under their wing. When you become a new CEO, people reach out and then that network begins. The former CEO of Xerox is a woman named ​​Anne Mulcahy. She and I became friendly a few years ago, and she took me on as a mentor as I was transitioning. She’s given me so many wonderful words of advice and so much confidence just to be who I am as a leader. By the way, the CEOs who have been supportive are not just women. There have been many men CEOs as well.”

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