How Sport Chek is preparing for the winter

The retailer is striking a balance between driving traffic for in-demand products and not sparking stressful holiday crowds.
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Consumers are starting to shop for winter outerwear earlier this year, and as they also looking to consolidate and de-stress their shopping experiences, Sport Chek is positioning itself as a place where they can get anything they need for the cold weather months ahead, no matter how and when they want to get it.

Eva Salem, VP of marketing at Sport Chek parent company Canadian Tire, says the timing of the retailer’s winter campaign is “fairly consistent” with what it has done in the past, and has maintained a “healthy” marketing spend. But a major difference is that the brand is already seeing an uptick in sales for winter outerwear and boots, much earlier than it has in years prior, demand that is also being seen at Mark’s and Canadian Tire.

“I think people don’t want to be pushed into a corner in the final hour,” she says. “Whether there is potentially another lockdown or more cases, I think people are just looking to get as much done while they can, given the ambiguity regarding the future.”

To that end, the “Winter Ready” campaign, currently running digitally, sets the mood for the winter season, with snow falling and people bundled up in winter jackets, toques, gloves and boots. Salem says it wanted to highlight a wide range of its most popular brands customers would be most interested in.

By showcasing its winter outerwear now, Sport Chek wanted get top of mind with customers going into what is always a competitive and busy season. But launching it now is also part of a shift in marketing approach to get consumers thinking about the holiday season earlier, to be more mindful of the consumer and changes in their behaviour due to the pandemic. Sport Chek is also ensuring that the “urgency” element typically associated with new product launches and holiday deals is removed from many of its marketing tactics to avoid generating crowds.

“We’re very cognizant right now of not directing too much traffic and [making] people feel stressed or frazzled,” Salem says. “So we launched it a little sooner than we normally would have, and just used very mindful language in terms of ways to shop.”

Sport Chek is playing to the demand of wanting a consolidated, one-stop-shop experience, something Canadian Tire was seeing back in June, as customers want to reduce their likelihood of exposure to COVID-19, save time and reduce stress.

The retailer put that at the forefront with its “One-Stop Shop” campaign, showing the consolidated shopping experience customers can get at Sport Chek, be it through shopping in-store, or going online to get curbside pickup or have items shipped to store.

Salem says the “One-Stop Shop” campaign provided something of an “equity moment” for the brand, speaking to some of the biggest concerns consumers have before moving to a more product-focused approach for the holidays, letting consumers know it is a place for in-demand products but that they don’t have to crash the door to get them.

In addition to outerwear, Salem says things like hiking gear, at-home gym equipment, loungewear, activewear, sleds and wellness products will be the focus of work in the upcoming weeks, products that will be featured more prominently than they have in previous holiday seasons.

Sport Chek developed the spots in-house, with Touché handling a media buy focused on paid digital and social.