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Hat World acquires 37-store Sports Fan-Attic chain

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Locally based Hat World Inc. has agreed to acquire a popular 37-store athletic retail chain in hopes of doing for collegiate and professional sports licensed apparel what Hat World did for headwear.

Tampa-based Sports Fan-Attic Inc. operates stores in seven southern states and last year posted revenue of about $30 million.

Executives at Hat World and its parent company, Nashville, Tenn.-based Genesco Inc., see the potential to grow the concept into a nationwide powerhouse, both with new stores and by acquiring other regional players in the fragmented market.

The company likely was gearing up for such a move earlier this year when it acquired two companies that produce and market team uniforms and apparel, Wisconsin-based Impact Sports Inc. and Minnesota-based Great Plains Sports.

"Our ambition is to build a national chain with the same scale-based advantages that Hat World enjoys today," Genesco CEO Robert J. Dennis said in a statement announcing the deal for Sports Fan-Attic. Terms were not disclosed.

The bid for growth will face a challenge from athletic shoe retailers The Finish Line Inc., based in Indianapolis, and New York-based Foot Locker Inc., both of which offer a wide assortment of apparel along with footwear. 

Hat World was founded in 1995 in Indianapolis, and acquired its largest competitor, Lids Corp., in 2001. Retail giant Genesco paid $175 million for the company in 2004, and it has continued to grow under the publicly traded company. Today it operates more than 850 locations across the U.S.

Sports Fan-Attic is a "natural addition to Hat World's business," Hat World President Kenneth Kocher said in a statement.

"Our businesses appeal to the same core customer with products from a vendor base that overlaps considerably, and we share an approach to merchandising that focuses on tailoring a store's product selection to the local market," Kocher said.

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