After 35 years in business, Goleta Sports owner Bob Lovelace will throw in the towel this June, closing up shop at roughly the same time he celebrates his 57th birthday. A former Santa Barbara High School football and basketball player, Lovelace did a thriving trade over the years selling uniforms and cleats to many of the school athletic programs.
But the downturn in the economy, the rise of Internet sales, and increased rents and delivery costs persuaded Lovelace the only light at the end of the economic tunnel was that of an oncoming train. The Internet, he said, has structurally changed the retail marketplace for good. “People come in now to try stuff on so they can then order it online,” he said. “It’s been a struggle for a while, and I don’t see it turning around.”
People aren’t spending the way they used to; school athletic programs have felt the pinch of hard times. When gas prices went up a few years back, delivery charges did, too. When gas prices later subsided—however temporarily—Lovelace noted his UPS bill did not go back down. Twice, he said, he asked his landlord, Michael Towbes, for rent relief. Twice, he said, he got nowhere. In fact, Lovelace said, the lease he just renegotiated included a $600 a month rent increase.
Traci Taitt from the Towbes Group said they had been in negotiations with Lovelace “off and on for the past 18 months” to settle on a new lease agreement, but “none of them would meet with [Lovelace’s] approval.” Taitt would not go into the specifics of what the Towbes Group offered, but said she was disappointed to see Goleta Sports go.
Lovelace said he enjoyed staying in touch with the changing seasons via the shift in sports schedules. “Mostly, I’ll miss the relationships,” he said, adding that he’s unsure what he’ll do next. As for where school sports teams will now buy their uniforms, Lovelace expressed skepticism about the degree of customer service they’d receive. “The big chains don’t really know what colors the high schools have here in town,” he said.