Big 5 storefront, Santa Monica, CA.

Big 5 storefront, Santa Monica, CA. Photo by Ringo Chiu.

El Segundo-based Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp. had been holding steady during the retail industry’s turmoil of recent years, but this winter appears to have taken a toll.

The 430-store chain took a hit on fourth quarter sales from an unexpected and unseasonably warm December. Same-store sales slid 9.4 percent compared to a boost of 3.1 percent in the same quarter last year.

Big 5 also gave shareholders a heads up on bad news in its upcoming fourth-quarter and year-end earnings report, expected next month. The company’s outlook now calls for a quarterly loss of $0.08 to $0.13 a share, compared to the earlier earnings forecast of $0.16 to $0.28 a share.

Full-year earnings were expected to be in the range of $0.52 to $0.57 a share, down from 2016’s earnings of 77 cents a share, the retailer said. Same-store sales declined for the year overall by 1.2 percent.

Investors had begun to cool on Big 5 before the unseasonably warm winter hits its sales. Share prices took a 60-plus percent dive over the past year, and closed Wednesday, Jan. 17 at $6.35 compared with $16.20 a year ago. Big 5’s earnings are expected by the end of February.

The January sales report drove the stock even lower – although shares seemed to have reached a floor, with the analyst consensus a hold by the end of last week.

A statement from Chief Executive Steven Miller said the chain is “hopeful that weather conditions and winter product sales will improve during the weeks ahead” as well as “encouraged by the performance of a number of our core product categories.”

The company didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The bad news is atypical for Big 5, which for the past five years has reported annual sales that consistently hit around $1 billion even as competitors such as Sports Authority in Englewood, Colo., and La Canada-Flintridge-based Sport Chalet declared bankruptcy and folded.

Game plan

Big 5 was founded in 1955 by Maurie Liff, Harry Liff and Robert Miller, the father of the current chief executive, according to its website. The company had five stores covering downtown Los Angeles, Burbank, Inglewood, Glendale and San Jose.

Thrifty Drug Stores acquired the company in 1971 and grew it from 19 to 140 stores by 1992, when it was bought by Beverly Hills-based private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners, with founding management staying on as partners. Big 5’s management, which included the founder and his son, bought out the private equity firm five years later. The company went public in 2002.

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