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Dick’s House of Sport leaders discuss “Why Knoxville” in keynote of Endeavor Summit

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

In the keynote address for the Knoxville Chamber’s Endeavor Summit, leadership from Dick’s Sporting Goods and the new House of Sport store discuss why they wanted to bring this new type of store to our city.

The House of Sport at West Town Mall is the second store of its type from Dick’s Sporting Goods, with the first in the company’s home territory of Upstate New York. The store features an outdoor field for community events and an indoor climbing wall. Jenn Dolfi, Vice President of Experience Integration at Dick’s, said the company wanted to create a destination experience when building the concept for the House of Sport stores. Connecting back to the community with events is a key component of the brand, she added, including partnering with local vendors to sell products in-store.

“We’re using these locations as R&D, and we really want to make sure that we take the learnings and translate those,” back across the brand, Dolfi said.

In a panel during Thursday’s Summit, Doug Lawyer, Vice President of Economic Development at the Chamber, led the discussion on why the brand selected Knoxville. The panel featured the members of the Dick’s Sporting Goods team: (1) Dolfi; (2) Dave Wallace, Director of Process Automation and Real Estate Management; and (3) Kenley Early, Community Integration Director at the House of Sports Knoxville location.

Lawyer kicked off the panel with “Why Knoxville,” which was a theme throughout the Summit’s panels that day.

With more than 800 stores across the Dick’s brand, Dolfi said they couldn’t make every location into a House of Sport. The company wanted to be more selective about where these stores landed. Since Dick’s already had a presence with stores in the Knoxville area, Dolfi said the company decided to look here. She added that having the University of Tennessee in the area was also a factor.

“It is a special place, and it is an amazing sports community,” Dolfi said.

Leadership at Dick’s was also interested in seeing how having the University close by would impact people working at the House of Sport store, Dolfi said. The brand looks for people passionate about sports who want to make an impact.

Later in the panel, Wallace spoke about innovations Dick’s has gone through in the changing landscape of retail. Over the last seven years, he said, it’s become like watching “a stack of dominos falling over” as stores and brands begin to close.

Around five years ago, Wallace said Dick’s began investing back in the business, particularly in IT infrastructure. That investment helped the company establish an office system which, in turn, helped keep them nimble during the pandemic, starting curbside pickup almost immediately. It also allowed the company to capitalize on trends, he said.

“We are constantly tinkering on all our stores. It never gets stale,” Wallace said. “The groundwork for these innovative things was set years in advance.”

Later in the panel, Lawyer asked if there was anything the company tried that didn’t work. Dolfi touched back on the Dick’s hiring process, saying they realized early on that in onboarding employees, it was better to “not let it rest.”

“We learned really quickly that this is not a set it and forget it,” she said. “There’s an element of training that every day we should be learning something new.”

Toward the end of the panel, Lawyer asked Early, an East Tennessee native, why it was important for Dick’s to be invested in the community. Early said they want House of Sport to be a hub of the community where people can learn and play. As a sporting goods company, she added they want the store to be a place where people can come and improve their skills. To do this, the company is making local partnerships with trainers and more.

“We really want it to be the hub of the community,” she said. “We also feel it’s important to involve the community to teach the things we want our athletes to learn. Those partnerships have been really successful.”

Follow Dick’s House of Sport on Instagram to learn more about community partnerships and events at @dickshouseofsportknx.

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