BIRMINGHAM – Hibbett Sports began 73 years ago as “an Army surplus store,” said its current president and chief executive officer, Jeff Rosenthal.
By 1949, the business had evolved into selling athletic uniforms to high school and Little League teams. As the business progressed, it moved into the retail side of selling athletic-inspired fashion, mostly in small to medium markets. “Today, we have over 1,000 stores in 34 states,” said Rosenthal. Of its almost 9,000 employees, 1,250 work in Alabama at the corporate, distribution or store level. Hibbett has stores in 74 Alabama cities.
As one of the largest companies based in the state, Hibbett “sets the bar for business longevity and adaptability,” said the 2018 Alabama Retailer of the Year judges. Hibbett “has continued to grow and evolve where the market needed them to go,” said Laura Boyles, director of investor relations for Birmingham Business Alliance, who nominated Rosenthal as a Retailer of the Year.
In the Annual Sales More Than $20 Million category, Hibbett Sports earned the 2018 Bronze Alabama Retailer of the Year Award. This is the second time Rosenthal has been honored as a Retailer of the Year. He placed in the same sales category in 2013. The Alabama Retail Association honored Rosenthal and Hibbett Sports today at the Alabama Retail Day luncheon in Birmingham. Carr, Riggs & Ingram CPAs and Advisors, Slappey Communications and the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business were the luncheon sponsors.
While its brick-and-mortar presence has shown continual growth throughout its history, Hibbett Sports did not operate an online store until 2017. “As we talked to our customers, we realized they shop both instore and online,” said Rosenthal. “We are a little late to (online sales), but we really took our time and did it right.”
Its online sales platform gives Hibbett customers a way to get items and sizes not carried in their local store, with the bonus of bringing many new customers to the company “in states where we have zero or only a few store locations,” the Hibbett Sports Retailer of the Year entry stated.
In 1945, high school coach Rufus Hibbett founded the company as Dixie Supply Co. Inc. in Florence. Hibbett Sports’ headquarters has been in Birmingham since 1981. It opened a 420,000-square-foot distribution center in Shelby County in 2014 with a goal of growing the company to 1,500 stores.
“Alabama is our roots,” said Rosenthal, who is originally from Florida. “When people get (to Alabama), they love it here; they love to work here; they don’t want to leave.”
Rosenthal joined the company in 1998 as president and chief operating officer. In 2010, his title became president and chief executive officer. “I was born into retail,” he said, noting that his great-grandparents, grandparents and parents all had retail careers. “All my Mom and Dad would talk about (at the dinner table) was retail,” said Rosenthal, “so I learned it pretty young.” He started out selling shoes. After graduating with a marketing degree from Florida State University, he went to work at Champs Sports. “I worked my way up to assistant manager, manager, then I was a merchandiser and buyer.”
“Jeff Rosenthal is a retailer of the year EVERY year to the Hibbett Sports customers, its almost 9,000 employees as well as the 74 Alabama communities and 34 other states where it has stores,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown.
Hibbett Sports was one of 13 Retailers of the Year honored at today’s luncheon. This year’s winners came from a pool of almost 100 nominees. The Alabama Retailer of the Year awards, started in 1999, honor retailers who have demonstrated growth, innovation and a commitment to their respective communities.
The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,200 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.
About Hibbett Sports:
Hibbett Sports, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., is a leading athletic-inspired fashion retailer with more than 1,000 stores, primarily located in small and mid-sized communities across the country. Founded in 1945, Hibbett stores have a rich history of convenient locations, personalized customer service and access to coveted footwear, apparel and equipment from top brands like Nike, Jordan, Adidas, Under Armour and more. Today Hibbett is one of the largest companies headquartered in Alabama with 9,200 employees nationwide. Consumers can browse styles, find new releases, shop looks and make purchases online or in their nearest store by visiting www.Hibbett.com. Follow us @HibbettSports