If we look at the history of The Finish Line, we can actually learn so much about what it takes for an idea to become not only a reality, but a runaway success. From being a dream held by three friends, to a business that is all over the United States and generating sales of over $1 billion, it is certainly capable of giving others hope that they could perhaps follow suit.
Where It All Began
David Klapper (left) and Alan Cohen
Their story actually begins back in 1976 when three keen runners, Alan Cohen, David Klapper, and John Dormont had a dream of opening a sport shoe company that specialized in running shoes in the state of Indiana. However, with no previous experience of doing do, they came to the conclusion that the best way to proceed was by taking out a franchise with The Athlete's Foot.
However, it is clear that having one store was not enough leading to the three friends investing in the franchise for not only the state capital of Indianapolis, but Indiana in general as well as Louisville in Kentucky. This led to their very first store opening in downtown Indianapolis in 1976, and their story began.
The first five years were certainly profitable even though it was down to just David Klapper to run the business on a daily basis. By 1981, the business was doing so well that it led to Cohen and Dormont having to become more involved in the business as by this stage they now owned a total of 12 stores under franchise.
The Move To Becoming The Finish Line.
By the time they had reached a total of 12 stores, the three partners ran into a problem. Even though they were happy with operating as a franchise for The Athlete's Foot, they were unable to expand further due to there being no other franchise opportunities being available. At this point they realized that to expand they would need to go it alone, but their franchise agreement allowed them to do this resulting in The Finish Line being born. To aid this expansion they also asked two further partners to come into the business with Dave Fagin and Larry Sablosky being invited to join them in the business.
The initial difficulty at this point was that even though they had opened their first Finish Line store in 1982, it took until 1986 for their 12 stores to convert over to their own brand name as the franchise agreements expired. However, by 1991 they had undergone quite rapid expansion resulting in them owning 105 stores and generating sales of $100 million.
Going Public With The Company.
After breaking through the $100 million barrier, it was decided by the five partners that it would require going public with the company in order to not only fund further expansion, but to also limit their own financial risk. However, Dormont decided that he would prefer to be bought out before the flotation.
By the mid 90's the company had more than doubled in size with 220 stores across the country and sales of $300 million and the decision was taken yet again to take the company public for a second time in order to generate the required income to fund even more expansion across a larger swathe of the country. This second offering happened in 1996 and more stores were added to their portfolio with it then joined in 1999 by their website as they saw relatively early the importance of selling products on the Internet. Indeed, they still generate a huge amount of sales from their website with it playing a key part in their existing business.
Combining Online With Offline.
With their first online sale being made in 1999, The Finish Line managed to get a head start on their competitors and they saw their online sales double every year for the first five years. However, even though the Internet was clearly a resounding success for them, they never forgot how important their real life stores were to the company and by 2004 they had more than 500 stores in their portfolio and generating close to $1 billion in sales. It would then only take them another year to finally reach the impressive figure of $1 billion per year.
Expanding Into Other Areas.
Thanks to their continued success, it was decided to make an offer to purchase a regional fashion apparel company called Man Alive in 2005. This resulted in them taking over a total of 37 stores spread over 9 states, but at the same time they continued to expand their own stores under The Finish Line brand and by 2009 there were a total of 700 stores. The only downside was an acceptance that the fashion world was changing, leading to them making the decision to sell the Man Alive brand, which they did in 2009, in order to concentrate on what they do best.
Jumping forward to the modern day, we see that the company now operates in 47 different states and run more than 660 stores under their brand name. They continue to go from strength to strength and have managed to ride out the recession that hit so many companies over a number of years. Their balance sheet shows that they are in a strong position from a financial point of view and even though expansion may have indeed slowed, they are also a company that is not at risk of running into problems.
If we look at the history of the company what we see is a real tale of how three friends came together and turned an idea into a billion Dollar business. The fact that they were able to move from a single store in Indianapolis to operating across 47 states in just 30 years shows a real business acumen and an ability to just do things in the correct way from the very beginning.
The Finish Line are one of the best, and biggest, companies of their kind and they are one of the major players within the athletic's shoes industry. In 2014 the company generated an astonishing $1.64 billions in sales. The original owners may no longer be as involved in the company, but they can certainly look on with pride at what they have created and there is no doubt that this company is going to be around for a long time to come.
Finish Line employs athletic shoe testers who review each new athletic shoe that comes out.