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Dick’s Sporting Goods claims in a lawsuit filed Feb. 20 in Mercer County Court that Mitchell Modell, CEO of Modell’s Sporting Goods, showed up at a Dick’s store in Princeton in February saying he was a Dick’s senior vice president. The lawsuit was first reported Friday by The Record newspaper.

Dick’s alleges Modell told employees he was to meet the Dick’s CEO there and persuaded workers to show him the backroom of the store and to answer questions about the business. Modell gathered information about online sales, including a “ship from store” program that gets products to customers’ doors quickly, the lawsuit said.

Retailers spy on each other all the time. In his autobiography, Sam Walton writes about covert shopping trips to keep tabs on rivals like Kmart and Price Club.

“Ever since retailers first started having cash registers, retailers have scouted each other’s stores,” said Burt Flickinger III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group.

But if the lawsuit’s allegations are true, this appears to be a particularly egregious case. It is rare that a CEO would actually get caught misrepresenting himself to store employees, experts say.

“What happens all day every day is retailers go to their competitors’ stores and probably and certainly don’t disclose who they are,” said RBC Capital Markets analyst Sean McGowan. “But I can’t think of any instances where a retailer represents he is an executive to gain access.”