Champs Sports sample sale returns at Bradenton headquarters

Bradenton-based sports apparel retailer Champs opens doors for bargains, charity

cschelle@bradenton.comNovember 8, 2013 

BRADENTON -- If shoppers want a dress rehearsal for Black Friday insanity, Champs Sports' annual sample sale is the perfect setting.

The sporting goods chain will run its annual sale of deeply discounted clothing at its corporate headquarters, 311 Manatee Ave. W,, starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, setting off a mad dash of shoppers scooping up 50-cent socks, $8 jackets and $2 T-Shirts.

"It's not going to last very long based on what I've seen in the past," said Paul Harmon, workforce manager at Champs. "It opens at 8, and the merchandise will be gone pretty quick. If they think they'll stroll in at 11 or 12, we might be done."

The annual sample sale features prototype clothing from vendors created or designed to be sold at Champs, which is now a division of Foot Locker, Harmon said. Many samples will feature a small cut at the bottom of the clothes, which is done to prevent companies from putting the clothes on the rack at a store, Harmon said, and most can be easily stitched up. If samples are cut too drastically, they are discarded, he said.

"A lot of it is our private label product, a lot of jackets, a lot of fleece hoodies, fleece pants and a ton of shorts," said Harmon, who added

he's surprised at the amount of winter jackets sold at each year's event.

Employees volunteer their time sorting the clothing and helping out at the sale where about 100 to 200 people line up by 7 a.m., readying to shop until they drop, Harmon said. Shoppers are handed a trash bag to go to town and load up on the goods to check out, he said. Sales are cash only -- a major change for this year, he added. All proceeds from the sale are donated to the United Way.

This year's sale will feature about 36 banquet tables full of clothes. T-shirts cost $2, shorts are $3, jackets are $8, hoodies are $6, and socks are 50 cents. You won't find too many shoes at the sale, Harmon said, but several will go for $6.

"Some of the stuff is one-of-a-kind, and some of it is merchandise you won't even see in the store," Harmon said.

This year's event will be a little lighter compared to last year thanks to companies going digital. Instead of sending hard copy sample of shirts, some companies will send over a photo rendering of what the clothes should look like, Harmon said.

One thing you won't find is merchandise made for teams who lost the championship game.

"That product is locked down," he said. "If we would have possession of anything in a case like that, we're required to return every single piece, and it's audited to make sure every product it returned."

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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