Retailer Charges Rival CEO Spied to Get Secrets

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -

The CEO of a sporting goods chain pretended to be an executive from a rival company in an effort to get confidential information, according to a lawsuit.

Dick’s Sporting Goods claims 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. He persuaded workers to show him the backroom and to answer questions about online sales, including a “ship from store” program that gets items to customers quickly.

Retailers spy on each other all the time. In his autobiography, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. founder Sam Walton writes about covert shopping trips to keep tabs on rivals like Kmart and Price Club. But it is rare that a CEO would actually get caught misrepresenting himself to store employees.

“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.”

Modell’s has more than 150 stores, while Dick’s has more than 550 stores.