Gander Outdoors, formerly known as Gander Mountain, on Thursday announced the initial list of 69 retail stores scheduled to open by May, just one off from the 70 stores that Marcus Lemonis, chairman of new owner Camping World Holdings, anticipated would open this year.
The locations slated to open are: one each in Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee; two each in Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio and Virginia; three each in Indiana and New York; four each in Florida, Illinois and Texas; five in Minnesota; six each in North Carolina and Pennsylvania; eight in Michigan; and 11 in Wisconsin, according to a company press release.
Camping World, an Illinois-based network of RV-centric retail locations, in April last year won the bankruptcy auction of Gander Mountain Company and Overton's. The agreement obligated Camping World to assume a minimum of 17 leases, and Lemonis, insisting on profitability, said then that at least half of Gander's 160 stores likely wouldn't survive.
Along with fewer stores and a new banner, Camping World is shrinking Gander's footprint in many cases, or opening stores with already smaller capacity — 30,000-, 40,000- or 50,000-square feet, as opposed to 60,000-, 70,000- or 80,000-square feet. "We believe that we're going to be able to generate solid sales, but more importantly, solid profitability out of those," he told analysts last month.
From the get-go, Lemonis has insisted that stores be profitable and well-managed in order to re-open, and in a statement Thursday he expressed confidence in the staff opening the new Gander Outdoors locations.
"It was important to me to bring Gander Outdoors back to many wonderful communities across the country because the employees are top notch and the stores provide great products and services for the community," he said. "Our great team at the headquarters in Bloomington, MN has been working tirelessly over the past six months to get the locations prepared and we are extremely excited to begin the rapid opening process and hope to open all locations this spring."
Camping World's careful acquisition of Gander isn't a reflection of limited ambitions. The company deepened its position in outdoor retail with the purchase this week of regional gear seller Erehwon Mountain Outfitter.
Founded in 1972, Erehwon has three stores in the Chicago area and a flagship in Milwaukee. About that deal, whose terms weren't disclosed, Lemonis said it's part of a strategy of "diligently creating segments within the outdoor space that allows for clear focus and growth" and expansion in e-commerce.
The acquisitions help Camping World's core business, too, with more products to sell to RV customers in need of gear, along with adding new camping customers who either now or in the future may become interested in buying an RV.