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May 30, 2017

Content From PK Law: Five Questions With David Hirshfeld, Holabird Sports

By:  Greg Weiner, Member, PK Law

Consumers visiting Holabird Sports on Pulaski Highway in Baltimore are familiar with the 7000 square foot retail space that houses walls of footwear matching any athletic or fitness requirement, the vast selection of tennis rackets and accessories, as well as the comprehensive array of fitness apparel for the active user. But what the average visitor doesn’t experience is a “behind-the-scenes” viewof the operation that houses nearly 50 employees involved with marketing, sales, customer service and distribution on the top floor, as well as the approximately 40,000 pairs of athletic shoes and sophisticated logistics operation contained withthe bottom-floor warehouse.Holabird Sports founder and President David Hirshfeld recently provided a tour of the facilities, as well as discussed the future of the athleisure industry, the daily challenges of running a retail enterprise in today’s environment and thoughts about expansion.

Q. Describe the currents sportswear, sporting goods and footwear environment.

A. The environment is typical of a lot of retail in that it has become “over-retailed.” Now that the athleisure style has become fashion, you see brands such as lululemonand Athletica joining Nike, Adidas and Under Armour in this category, combined with larger retail companies introducing designs that also compete for consumer attention. The term “over-retail” has been used for quite some time and the result has been many bankruptcies, store closings and malls going under. We also compete directly with our suppliers, who operate their own retail outlets and websites. You also have that small company called Amazon that also needs to be factored into the equation. Our perspective of the running, fitness and racquet sports category is that the overall environment is a bit stagnant, with the popularity of tennis significantly down. Our store is still performing exceptionally well, as we have been able to maintain a loyal consumer following, due to our one-of-a-kind retail store.

Q. What are the advantages of shopping at Holabird Sports, rather than the big-boxes and specialty retailers?

A.For starters, we specialize in just a few sports so our product inventory and depth far surpasses what a big-box can offer. Dick’s Sporting Goods, for example, is a department store that offers a little bit for many different activities. Conversely, we stock everything for just a few activities. Service is also a major point of differentiation, as the average employee has been working with us for more than twenty years. They are constantly attending clinics organized by our suppliers to achieve greater product knowledge. We are also old-school. When searching for footwear, we still fit you, to make sure you are purchasing the optimum product that is mechanically correct to conform to your foot. We also analyze your tennis swing and will match you with the perfect racquet to suit your game.

Q. What challenges do you face as a single-location operation?

A.Holabird Sports was founded in 1981 and we have operated from this location since 1994. We have explored expansion, but it has to be the perfect opportunity and we have never found that site. And, this is more than a retail location as our warehouse downstairs services our strong Internet business. Every retail store faces competition these days from the Internet and we have to work harder across the board. This is not a unique situation. We have at least thirty legitimate competitors on-line.

Q. Is another retail location in the cards for you down the road?

A.You would have to ask that question to my son, who is now involved with the business and will eventually take over day-to-day operations. He’s young and has his own ideas. We’re still a vibrant business and we take each day as it comes. I would never say “never.” We are always looking to grow.

Q. What trends are bubbling up in your industry?

A.Adidas seems to be a hot brand currently, as their shoes are resonating with the public based on their casual and simple look without tons of different colors. They are also comfortable and conservative. In the past, we have seen a lot of interest in colorful footwear, but it seems to be trending back to monotone. Athleisure apparel, which is clothing you can work-out in at the gym and then run errands with, remains popular. The only constant is that things change every day.

Greg Weiner is a Member in PK Law and Co-Chairs the firm’s Corporate and Real Estate Group. He represents emerging and established businesses in a wide range of industries including technology, health care (including urgent care, home healthcare, assisting living and nursing homes), restaurants, breweries, education, construction and professional services (including physician practice groups, accountants, attorneys, software and IT companies and design firms). He assists them with general business matters, as well as employment contracts, wage and hour and overtime issues, independent contractor versus employee classification, real estate needs and financing. Greg has assisted Holabird Sports with general corporate and intellectual property matters.

Pessin Katz Law, P.A. (PK Law) is the eleventh largest law firm in the Baltimore area and has been serving clients for close to thirty years. PK Law maintains full-service offices in Towson, Columbia, and Bel Air and is comprised of more than 60 lawyers, paralegals and law clerks. Practice areas include corporate law, real estate, zoning, education law, estate planning, elder law, labor and employment, litigation, insurance law and medical malpractice defense. For additional information, visit www.PKLaw.com Contact Greg Weiner at gweiner@pklaw.com

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