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It’s Regarded as The Destination for Hats
by Beverly Dykes
The company playfully implores customers, “No matter where you’re at, wear a hat.” By serving the needs of a broad market base, encompassing everyone from core sports fans and fashion-conscious, trend-savvy teens to customers ranging in age from their 20s on up through retirement age, LIDS has become a leading retailer of athletic fashion headwear, apparel and accessories. The retail stores offer officially licensed and branded headwear featuring logos of college and major professional sports teams, as well as other specialty fashion categories, all in the most coveted styles and colors. The majority of LIDS stores also offer custom embroidery capability. The company also sells products and promotes its retail destinations through the internet site lids.com.
The inspiration behind the founding of Hat World dates to the early 1990s when Glenn Campbell and Partner Scott Molander banked on the fact that, “Everybody either went to college or follows a college or professional sports team. A hat is clearly an impulse buy, but one that people can afford.” Utilizing their background experience in retail store management, Campbell and Molander began their own business, centered around offering baseball-style caps from mall-based store locations.
It began with one shopping mall location opened in Lafayette, Indiana, that sold more than 6,000 hats during the 1995 holiday season. Based on its proven appeal, the founders were able to acquire private financial backing and opened five more stores their first full year. The chain numbered 157 stores after the first five years, at which point the parent company acquired its largest competitor, LIDS Corporation, in 2001. With the purchase of LIDS, Hat World grew to 400+ stores, in addition to operating the e-commerce channel lids.com. In 2004, Nashville, TN-based Genesco, Inc. (NYSE:GCO) acquired Hat World, Inc. The company continued its remarkable pattern of growth through new store development and acquisitions, including Hat Zone (2002), Cap Factory (2003), Canadian-based Cap Connection and Head Quarters (2004), Hat Shack (2006) and Sports Fan-Attic (2009). Also in 2009, the company strategically acquired team uniform, apparel and equipment dealers, custom screen printers and embroidery operators Impact Sports and Great Plains Sports of St. Paul, Minnesota. 2010 saw the acquisitions of regional team sports dealers Brand Athletics and Anaconda Sports. As of July of 2012, the company agreed to acquire nine locations from JAS Sports of Seattle.
The originating founders instincts about the stores’ core product’s appeal proved correct, and today Hat World is the specialty retail leader in the category of fashion athletic headwear (with Campbell and Molander continuing to occupy key executive positions at the company). Per its President, Ken Kocher, the chain’s success “stems from the efforts of first-class professionals, who stay on top of the wants of the consumer and put customer service first.” LIDS is regarded as the ultimate place for finding the hottest branded, team and fashion hats -- whether it be a style spotted on a famous celebrity, or on a fan attending a local sporting event. Customers know the store can be relied on to have the ideal style and size headwear to complete their ensemble, while also reflecting their individuality.
LIDS boasts carrying the largest selection of sport, fashion and collegiate hats in the most up-to-the-minute designs and trends. Among the styles of hats available are adjustable, fitted, stretch fit, bucket caps, visors, knits and kids hats. The majority of the stores’ customers are typically seeking to put the finishing touch on their game day accessories, and visit LIDS to find what they need (ie., merchandise categories include NFL, NBA, NCAA, NHL, MLB, MLS, as well as racing and pop culture logos). The company’s stores reportedly sell more officially licensed Major League Baseball apparel than any other retailer in the world. Among the latest popular trends are BMX racing oriented and surfing gear.
To give an idea of the caliber of brand name merchandise available at the stores, among the 38+ different labels to be found are Adidas, Hurley, Kangol, Nike, Puma, Roxy and Volcom. In addition to head wear, the stores also sell cap brushes and cleaning kits, headbands, and such peripheral accessories as backpacks, luggage, iPad cases, laptop bags, sunglasses and wallets. LIDS is also the number one destination for custom hats, featuring the largest selection of styles, graphics, colors and font options, enabling customers to perfect a unique product. The stores can quickly create caps for company outings, little league sports teams, or any sports theme-related occasion. The capabilities offer limitless design possibilities.
The stores also sell several denominations of gift cards that can be used for merchandise purchases at any LIDS store in the U.S. or online. These make ideal children’s allowance supplements, and are also useful for rewarding college students’ performance. A LIDS Club membership involves registering as a Club Card owner, and enables customers to take advantage of exclusive offers, promotions and product sneak peeks. Club member benefits entail an up to 25% discount on hats and embroidery, up to 15% off on apparel and accessories, special member only offers, and priority access to new product releases, limited edition items, and VIP events.
The LIDS Sports Group, operating within Hat World, Corp. (a subsidiary of Genesco, Inc.), consists of the LIDS retail headwear stores, the LIDS Locker Room specialty fan retail chain, LIDS Clubhouse retail stores (team specific professional and college athletics retail stores), the LIDS Team Sports wholesale business and the respective e-commerce websites. Operating from headquarters in Indianapolis, Indiana, the retail businesses comprise 1,000+ mall-based, airport, street level, and factory outlet stores positioned in 50+ states nationwide, and in Canada and Puerto Rico. The chain has garnered a reputation as one of America’s fastest-growing retailers, and projects continued expansion going forward. The stores utilize approximately 800-1,200 sq. ft. of space, having a minimum frontage of 20 feet, in enclosed super regional malls, power centers, open air lifestyle centers, mixed-use and outlet shopping centers, featuring nationally recognized name brand tenants. Other youth-oriented apparel and sports related accessories stores are among the desired co-tenants. The ideal demographics will entail a population of 150,000 residing within a 5 mile trade radius (250,000 within 10+ miles), reporting a mid to high level of income. The standard lease term commitment is for 10 years with one 5 year option.
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