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A head merchant move at Big 5

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Boyd Clark was named SVP buying at Big 5 Sporting Goods following the resignation of long-time head merchant Thomas Schlauch, the company announced.

Clark previously served as a VP buying at Big 5 for the past 12 years and has worked in the merchandising department since first joining the company in 1992. Schlauch, 66, has served as SVP buying for the past 19 years, spent two years as head of buying and eight years as VP buying. In total, he spent 44 years with the company in various capacities and will continue to provide transitional service and assist in special projects.

“We are grateful to Tom for all of his contributions to our company over the past 44 years,” said Big 5 chairman and CEO Steven Miller. “During his tenure, we have grown our store base from just 11 stores in California to 396 stores in 12 states, and have grown annual revenue to nearly $900 million. I am pleased at the prospect of Tom continuing to assist us through this transition and being available to engage in special projects as we move forward under new leadership in our buying department.”

Schlauch’s replacement is also a veteran merchant who, prior to joining Big 5, served as a buyer and divisional merchandise manager at a regional retail and prior to that as a sporting goods manufacturer sales representative.

“We are excited to have (Boyd Clark) Bud  lead our buying and merchandising team as we continue our efforts to align our product offering with today’s consumer,” Miller said. “With his wealth of experience and as a highly respected buyer in our industry, he has an ideal background to direct Big 5 Sporting Goods’ buying and merchandising programs. I am confident (he) will be instrumental as we move forward with our business plan to deliver profitable growth.”

The leadership transition comes as amid a challenging sale environment, particularly along the West Coast where the majority of the company’s 11,000-sq.-ft. stores are located. First-quarter sales were at the low end of the company’s guidance range with comps down 0.9% even with the benefit of an easy comparison with the prior year period when stores were closed on Easter Sunday.

As Miller explained at the time of the earnings release, the weak economy hit Big 5 from both directions (sales and expenses) during the first quarter.

“Sales were negatively impacted by a decrease in customer traffic, as we believe many of our consumers reduced purchases of discretionary items in response to the challenging economic environment, characterized by rising gas prices and high unemployment,” Miller said. “Earnings were lower than our previous expectations primarily due to higher than anticipated expenses associated with employee benefits, including workers’ compensation, health and welfare and California unemployment taxes.”

A new head merchant won’t alter the macroeconomic climate however which has the company forecasting second-quarter comps will be flat to down in single digits while earnings per share in the range of 6 cents to 14 cents will be below the prior year’s 22 cents a share profit.

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