Chattanooga sportswear companies hope for early return to the field after COVID-19 locks down spring sports

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Dozens of rows of boxes, stacked high and ready for delivery, span much of the warehouse inside Sports Spectrum on Highway 58. Filled with sports uniforms and gear which, for now, are not needed, they are a visual representation of a sporting goods industry that came to a screeching halt.

With the closure of local sporting events at all levels – small leagues, middle and high schools, colleges and even recreational leagues – due to concerns over COVID-19, local retailers face an uncertain future for their business.

“For now, these boxes are going to sit in storage and wait for all of us to be told the programs can safely resume,” said Jeff Covington, owner of Sports Spectrum, whose company works with hundreds of local schools and youth league programs to provide uniforms, equipment, trophies and awards. “March and April are two of our highest year-round volumes in terms of orders simply because of the number of sports played at this time of year. And the youth league uniforms which will now have to stay in the boxes for a while and wait.

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Sportswear companies hope for a quick comeback

“There are a lot of other local businesses, like restaurants, that can sing the blues too because it has a significant impact on us. When I graduated from UTC, I don’t remember learning about it. running a business during a pandemic. There is no manual on how to manage that. The problem now is if things don’t improve by May or June, then we have everything exhausted and consider real losses from there. “

Sports Spectrum, which opened in 1982, and The Athletic Shop, another local sportswear and equipment company will absorb six-figure losses every month as the virus keeps sporting events closed, according to the owners of these. companies.

The Athletic Shop, which has customers in six states, closed until March 30 and will reopen on a limited basis thereafter. The company continued to pay its more than 40 employees during the shutdown.

“When we got through the 2008 recession, one of the things we learned was how to be financially responsible and thrifty,” said Nathan Brooks, who has been co-owner of The Athletic Shop since 2007. “We have no debt. “So we’re prepared to weather the storms to a certain extent. But it’s different. It’s a complete stop, not just a slowdown.”

“The big concern is what is the timeframe? Most of our income comes from the schools, that’s how we are compensated. With the schools closing, their accountants are not in the office sending us checks. Cash flow is essential to any business well. If this grows to fall unchanged, it could be the end of the game for many businesses. Anyone who acts like they don’t care is lying. We are all afraid. “

Brooks and Convington both said the portion of the national stimulus package passed by Congress on Friday that is reserved for small businesses would likely prevent layoffs within their businesses and help keep their businesses alive while waiting for schools to reopen. and the return of sports teams. at the playground.

“The next phase I’m concerned about – we missed the entire spring season – and now that will affect us for the next 12 to 24 months,” Covington said. “What I mean by that is that next year, when we go back to the spring sports coaches, they will already have stuff that they just bought this year but never got to use it. so they won’t need to order anything.It’s hard to put a value on that right now.

“I’m optimistic because as bad as things get economically, once it’s safe, people will want to go to a football game because it’s an escape,” he added. “Until then, it feels like you’re sitting in a storm shelter waiting for the storm to pass, then going out and assessing the damage. “

Contact Stephen Hargis at [email protected] or 423-757-6293. Follow him on twitter @StephenHargis.



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