Camping World CEO: 70 Gander Mountain stores will survive culling

Dive Brief:

  • Following Camping World's successful bid of certain Gander Mountain's assets and its Overton’s, Inc. boating business, which was approved by a bankruptcy court on Thursday, Camping World announced Monday that it plans to keep 70 or more Gander Mountain stores open, according to a press release.

  • Marcus Lemonis, CEO of RV and outdoor retailer Camping World, on Sunday took to Periscope, the Twitter-owned video streaming app, to correct reports that all Gander Mountain stores are closing. 

  • Such reports were likely prompted by a Friday press release from Tiger Capital Group, which stated that going-out-of-business sales were being staged at all 126 Gander Mountain stores. “All stores are liquidating, and the inventory in there is going to go away,” Lemonis said Sunday. “But the stores aren’t closing. My goal is to open at least 70.”

Dive Insight:

While many Gander Mountain locations will indeed shutter, profitable stores will be spared, Lemonis clarified on Sunday. He has been tweeting which stores will continue to operate and said that he will continue to do so as he and his team make their assessments.

“I know this way of communicating is a bit unorthodox, and most people are sort of taken aback by it, but I continue to see news reports from news organizations in cities where Gander Mountain stores exist that all stores are closing, and they are not," he said.

At least 70 stores will continue to operate as "Gander Mountain" stores, but Camping World might add small Camping World or Overton store-within-store concepts to them, he said. The company plans to continue operating Gander Mountain's website, its Overton e-commerce business and Overton's two physical North Carolina locations, and Overton may eventually expand its brick-and-mortar footprint.

Any stores that will remain must be have good prospects, Lemonis said. "It’s up to the local staff, the manager to run that store profitably," he said. "I will not be picking stores that do not have a clear path to profitability — I will not do that under any circumstance.”

Fierce competition in sporting goods retail and debt loads are catching up to retailers like Gander Mountain that overextended themselves and failed to keep up with evolving trends and changing customer demands. Gander, however, is hardly the only one in the space experiencing trouble. Eastern Outfitters, which includes discount retailer Bob's Stores and outdoor retailer Eastern Mountain Sports, filed for bankrupty protection in February and was recently bought by U.K. sports retailer Sports Direct

Indeed, Lemonis on Sunday said the retailer was a victim of its own misguided approach to inventory. "At the end of the day, this company failed because it made some giant inventory mistakes and just bought too much," he said. "Not the wrong stuff, but just too much. And it didn’t necessarily understand how to operate in a low-cost environment."

Meanwhile, Cabela’s, which like Gander is a major gun and ammunition seller, continues to struggle as it awaits the final word from the Federal Trade Commission regarding its proposed acquisition by privately held rival Bass Pro Shops. Many of these retailers are offering the same brands and merchandise mix as each other, forcing them to compete on price. And gun sales in particular, which have mostly fallen in recent years, have been a drag on retailers like Gander and Cabela’s.

Gander Mountain stores will continue to honor gift cards until May 17, Tiger Capital said on Friday. The liquidation sales will end when all merchandise has been sold. Participating stores are in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia. 

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Top image credit: Gander Facebook page