Big 5 Sporting Goods

Big 5 was founded in 1955 by Maurie I. Liff, Harry A. Liff and Robert W. Miller. Robert Miller’s son, Steven, is the current Chief Executive Officer.

Big 5 Sporting Goods’ 433 U.S. Locations

The Big 5 company began with five stores operating in downtown Los Angeles, Burbank, Inglewood, Glendale, and San Jose, California, under the trade name “Big 5 Stores.” Today, there are 433 Big 5 stores located in the western half of the United States, the majority of them on the west coast.

In the early years, Big 5’s products were mostly World War II army surplus items. The company also manufactured and sold tents and air mattresses as well as a variety of housewares and tools.

Over the years, sporting goods became such a big part of the company’s product mix, that Big 5 management decided to specialize in it. In December of 1963 they changed their name to Big 5 Sporting Goods.

In 1971, with 19 stores in its chain, Big 5 was acquired by Thrifty Drug Stores, the West Coast’s biggest chain of pharmacies. For the next 21 years, Big 5 operated as a subsidiary of Thrifty.

By 1992, Big 5 had grown to 140 stores in California, Nevada, and Washington and the company built a 440,000 square foot distribution center in Fontana, California.

In that same year, the company’s management, in conjunction with Leonard Green & Partners, acquired Big 5. Robert Miller stayed on as Chairman of Big 5, and his son, Steven, was named President and Chief Operating Officer.

In the following year, Big 5 opened 10 new stores, followed by 15 in both 1993 and 1994 and 19 in 1995. During the expansion process, Big 5 entered the new markets of Arizona, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas.

In November 1997, the Millers led the management in an effort to raise $250 million to acquire a controlling interest in the company. This transaction gave many of the chain’s employees a financial interest in the company and a stronger commitment to make Big 5 Sporting Goods prosper.

In June 2002, Big 5 held an initial public offering (IPO), raising over $100 million to finance future growth. Management continued to expand the chain into markets outside of California. To accommodate this growth, in 2005 Big 5 opened a state-of-the-art distribution center in Riverside, California.

In 2010, Big 5 turned 55 and that means just one more year until its 65th birthday in 2020.

Gloria Sauvé
Communications and Marketing

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