As a corporate company with more than 1,000 stores in 31 states, on first glance Hibbett Sports wouldn’t look to be community-oriented, but that’s exactly what it strives to be.
“We try and be the local guy, but corporate at the same time,” Josh Sanders said. “The overall company goal is to be in the communities where we’re needed and serve the customers while having a hometown feel and that hometown mentality. We want to know who is in the community and who is shopping with us.”
Sanders is the district manager for the newest Hibbett location inside Alton Square Mall. Hibbett opened its doors April 3 and enjoyed its grand opening event on April 18; now its goal is to become entrenched in the Alton community.
Regionally, Hibbett is ramping up its visibility. There are stores in Wood River, Edwardsville, two in Belleville, Granite City, Litchfield, Troy and Waterloo in Illinois. Across the river Hazelwood, South County and Festus are its closest locations.
“So far in Alton it’s been exciting and new,” Alton store manager Mel Mecagni said. “We’ve had a lot of customers who are happy they don’t have to go to Wood River anymore, or Edwardsville anymore. They like that it’s helping Alton Square grow and that it’s a little bit more of a variety for sporting goods in the city of Alton.”
Mecagni, 23, came to Hibbett in February after previously working for Sports Authority for three years. It’s her first experience as a store manager and she’s happy to do it with Hibbett and in Alton.
“My favorite part about our company is our customer service,” she said. “They push for good customer service and that creates a fun atmosphere with customers and employees. It really helps us get to know our customer base and the people in the town we’re in, like Alton. I can recognize my customers because I know a little bit about them. I know they just started baseball season, or they’re a three-sport athlete, and it makes you feel good to make your customers feel good.”
At Hibbett, sales drive what merchandise can be found in the store. Right now in Alton customers will find primarily apparel and a large line of footwear. There is a corner of the store dedicated to Cardinals and Cubs attire, too.
Some equipment is available, with basketballs, soccer balls and footballs lining the back wall. Scorebooks for various sports are available, along with a hodgepodge of other equipment.
Hibbett offers more equipment, but Sanders said they are waiting to see what the Alton clientele is interested in. If a customer doesn’t see what they want, though, that doesn’t mean they can’t get it.
“It could (change). It definitely takes a little time,” Sanders said. “Our stores work together, so if there is a team sale for example and we have a team that needs 18 to 24 batting helmets and the Alton store only has a handful, they can have that product sent in from other stores. So if it’s something you don’t see, it doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t get it. Not in all cases, but if something is not in the store we try and help each other out with what is needed.”
While Hibbett won’t be sponsoring any youth teams in the area, that doesn’t mean it won’t be involved with Alton sports.
“We don’t do sponsorships, but we do try to get coupons to local leagues and involve ourselves in the community like that,” Sanders said. “We’ll do team sales for coaches. If there is a 5K walk or run, we try to get coupons for that and sometimes we can give smaller items to donate, like water bottles.”