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Find the Best Sporting Goods Stores

by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Sporting goods stores offer a large variety of sports and outdoor apparel, equipment, gear and even vehicles like ATVs and boats. Use our guide to research the best sporting goods store for you. We explain what to look for if you need equipment for your little league baseball team or gear for your upcoming backpacking trip. Quality sporting accessories or gear tend to be pricey, so it’s a good idea to read user reviews, make sure the store’s return policy is flexible and check promotions and discounts that are available in the store and online.

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Which features of a sporting goods store matter most?

What products do sporting goods stores carry?

Possibly the most important feature of any sporting goods store is the selection of its apparel and equipment. Larger stores will carry a wider variety of brands as well as a bigger variety of equipment that encompasses several categories of sport, including everything from basketball, football, soccer and baseball, to things like hunting, fishing, kayaking and camping.

  • Apparel: Apparel selection plays a big part in what you shop for at a sporting goods store. Large retailers will carry multiple brands that make casual sportswear as well as active sportswear for sports and other outdoor activities like hunting, hiking and camping.
  • Equipment: Whether you’re looking for balls, bats, helmets and gloves for your little league baseball, football or soccer team, or you need a sleeping bag, stove and tent for an extended backpacking trip, sporting goods stores should have a broad selection of equipment, across multiple disciplines to choose from.
  • Large equipment: Large sporting good stores have showrooms for big equipment like ATVs and boats. You can walk through different models, much like you would at a car dealership or an open-house showing.

What features come with sporting goods stores mobile applications?

Sporting goods stores develop mobile applications that come with features to make online shopping easy and accessible from any location. Most applications let you shop online, manage and redeem rewards points, view customized rewards tailored for you based on your shopping habits and find a physical store nearest you.

  • Shop online: Mobile applications are optimized for online shopping from any smartphone or mobile device. They typically break down products into easily accessible categories such as team sports, footwear, exercise and sports. It is a good idea to make sure the mobile application you use has secure payment methods to protect your personal information.
  • Offers and deals: A lot of sporting goods stores can pick up on your shopping and spending habits within their mobile application and customize offers and deals for you. They also have weekly deals specific to your location like back-to-school sales or sales for the start of each sporting season. If a store offers rewards points, you can track and manage your points directly from your app.
  • Special features: Some sporting goods stores have special features on their mobile apps that help you stay active while earning rewards points for hitting your fitness goals. Other applications have features that show nearby outdoor activities and maps based on your current location.

What kind of promotions do sporting goods stores offer?

Like most retailers, sporting goods stores constantly offer promotions, especially on their website. Their promotions are typically based on the current season and/or the current sports season. Online, you can find things like free shipping, weekly ads and current promotions at stores nearest you.

  • Seasonal: Sporting goods stores tend to offer promotions based on which sport is currently in season or about to be in season. You can take advantage of these seasonal promotions to purchase any necessary gear for your child’s sport, or, if you’re a coach, buy things in bulk.
  • Clearance: Sporting goods stores have heavily discounted items in the clearance sections online and in-store. Clearance items consist of brands’ models or styles from the previous year that are being offered at large discounts.
  • Weekly ads: Sporting goods stores sometimes run weekly ads online with various promotions across different sports. You can find sales on apparel and equipment, as well as special financing deals for larger equipment like treadmills and weight machines.

How can I return items to a sporting goods store?

If you do most of your shopping online, a sporting goods store’s return policy is an important feature to consider. Each sporting goods store has different rules and regulations under their return policy, but most require proof of purchase and the option to return an item via mail or at a store location.

  • Returns: Returns can be either mailed in or taken into the closest store near you. Most sporting goods stores require you to have proof of purchase and the original tags and/or packaging. For returns through the mail, be sure to find the correct address specific to that store’s returns department.
  • Exclusions/restrictions: It is important to note that things like firearms, ammunition, gas-powered equipment, bikes, special order items and gift cards can not be returned. Things like baseball bats and electronics can not be returned if the package has been opened.

What are the different types of sporting goods stores?

Brick-and-mortar stores

Sporting goods stores have many, sometimes hundreds, of physical store locations across the globe. These brick-and-mortar locations can have a very large selection of apparel, gear, equipment and can even carry ATVs and boats. Stores with physical locations allow consumers to go in and try on clothes, test equipment and speak with knowledgeable sales representatives in person.

Online retailers

Many sporting goods stores with physical locations also have fully-capable e-commerce websites that allow consumers to browse apparel, equipment and accessories online. Shopping online can yield good deals and prices, as well as free shipping to either your home or the closest physical store location. Consumers can even live-chat with representatives as they shop online, should any questions come up.

Who shops at sporting goods stores?

Families with kids involved in sports

Families with children involved in sports for school or in a private league can shop at an online or brick-and-mortar sporting goods store to buy the necessary equipment they will need. Most large sporting good retailers carry a full line of equipment for each sport.

People who play recreational sports

People who play in recreational leagues or intramural leagues for fun can find any equipment they might need at a sporting good store.

People who exercise

Runners, bikers or weight lifters can find the necessary equipment and clothing needed to be comfortable and perform well during any form of exercise.

People who coach sports

Little league and recreational coaches can find equipment such as balls, bats, gloves, cones, jerseys and much more to meet their team's needs for games and practices.

Outdoor enthusiasts

Avid hikers, backpackers, hunters, fishermen and kayakers can find almost any piece of outdoor equipment they might need on a trip in an online or brick-and-mortar sporting goods store. Large retailers carry anything from camping stoves, sleeping bags and tents to fishing poles, hunting rifles and kayaks.

Not sure how to choose?

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    Compare Reviews for Top Sporting Goods Stores

    by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

    The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.

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