Sport Chalet's prospects are climbing

The La Cañada Flintridge-based retailer known for its skiing and mountain-biking gear appears to have turned a sharp corner, with two straight profitable quarters and projections for a profitable year after five down years.

Sport Chalet, which has a retail store and its corporate headquarters just off Angeles Crest Highway, told investors during a conference call last week that the quarter that ended in October saw profits of $800,000 on sales of $91.5 million. Last year at the same time, the company made $600,000 on sales of $88 million, but then saw sales slump as a dry winter kept snow lovers off the slopes.

Sport Chalet Chief Executive and Chairman Craig Levra said that the chain is seeing the payoff from staff training, new software, more targeted product selection and the end of the Great Recession.

During the recession, Levra said, “We got pounded on the earnings side. We’ve improved where we’re back to profitability two quarters in a row.”

During the conference call, Chief Financial Officer Howard Kaminsky said that in the quarter that just ended, comparable store sales increased 5.5% over the same time in the prior year and online sales grew by nearly 16%.

Profits fell 1.9% in the second quarter of 2012 prepared to the first quarter, which Levra attributed to the costs of an August promotional campaign, changes in merchandise costs and extended training for employees.

The chain of more than 50 stores had two profitable quarters in 2011, but then slow winter sales killed the momentum. Levra said that with careful product selection and other improvements, the company is better positioned to weather a poor ski season than it was last year.

Levra said that Sport Chalet always has focused on training and high-end gear, but is now getting sales from new products such as ski goggles with a built-in GPS display or GoPro video cameras.

“Today, if you would walk into any store or online, the amount of technical product we have is superior to any time in the last five years,” he said.

The store the company plans to open at Seventh Street and Figueroa Avenue in downtown Los Angeles in May will emphasize its specialty equipment and sales expertise, Levra said.

“We’re putting a tremendous amount of resources, brainpower, into this store, making it a next-generation design,” he said. “It’s going to give a different sense of Sport Chalet, of what the brand means.”

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