Academy Sports + Outdoors is an American sporting goods discount store chain. Academy carries an extensive line of name-brand equipment and clothing and shoes for competitive sports, physical fitness training, and outdoor recreational activities such as camping, hunting, fishing, and boating. Academy's company headquarters are located in Katy, Texas, outside Houston.
For 74 years it was a privately held company owned by the Gochman family, until its May 2011 acquisition by the long-time Wall Street investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Academy operates about 225 stores throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Academy Sports & Outdoors came into existence in 1938, when Arthur Gochman and his business partner purchased Southern Sales, a San Antonio-based army-navy surplus chain comprising six stores that were by that year no longer making any profit. At the time, Gochman was a practicing attorney in San Antonio. He had not been formally educated as a businessman, but he had learned much about the surplus retail business from his father, Max Gochman, who had owned a surplus goods outlet in San Antonio and in 1935 still owned and operated a small chain of stores in Austin.
Gochman bought out his partner in 1973 and changed the company's business name from Southern Sales to Academy Corp. The Academy name was borrowed from his father's stores. It came from a now-defunct San Antonio Catholic school named St. Henry's Academy. Max Gochman had opened his first store across the street from the school in the 1930s, selling pre-World War II surplus goods. Later, when he moved to Austin, he used the name for his four army-navy surplus stores. Because many University of Texas students and graduates lived in the Houston area and were familiar with the Austin stores, Max Gochman permitted his son to use the name, knowing that it would help his son's business. In 1978, the younger Gochman gave up his law practice and moved to Houston to assume active control of the company and complete the overhaul of its basic merchandising policies.
The chain grew from eight stores in 1980 to 12 in 1985.
By 1990 the company was selling more cowboy boots than any other chain in the United States.
By the end of the 1980s Academy had become a popular Texas chain. Among other things, its outlets sold more state fishing licenses than its chief competitor, Oshman's Sporting Goods, or any other group of stores in the state.
1990s and Beyond
By 1990 Academy had grown to 18 stores. It also began a period of more rapid expansion, jumping to 34 stores by 1995, the year after it first moved into two adjoining states. It opened its first store outside Texas in Edmond, Oklahoma in June 1994, then added a store in Lafayette, Louisiana the following November, thus ending the company's exclusive Texas identity.
Academy's roots remain in Texas, though, and the epicenter of the company's business always has been the greater Houston area. Almost half of its stores are located there, as are the company headquarters and its distribution facility. As it has expanded beyond its home base, Academy has sought "hot-market" locales, places that from market analysis offered the promise of high-volume sales. The result has been that it has never had to close one of its new stores, all of which have been profitable since their first day of operation.
In 1995 David Gochman, the founder's son, joined Academy on a full-time basis. By that time his father, then 65, had built Academy into a $350 million retail chain and was ready to turn control of the business over to his 30-year-old son. David Gochman initially served as vice-president of store operations and general counsel, but in the following year he succeeded his father as Academy's chairman, president, and CEO.
In 1999, it had 35 stores in Texas, three in Oklahoma, two in Alabama, three in Louisiana, and one in Florida. The majority of these were "superstores," ranging from 35,000 to 100,000 square feet in size.
In 2011, Academy Sports + Outdoors was acquired by the investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. The corporate headquarters located in Katy will be doing an expansion of its facilities with a completion date of 2015.