Bankrupt Gander Mountain Co. could be bought by rival outdoor gear retailer Sportsman’s Warehouse, which has plans to bid on 80% of Gander’s locations, unnamed sources told Bloomberg.
Gander Mountain, which filed for bankruptcy March 10, already has an agreement to liquidate 32 stores. A purchase by Sportsman’s Warehouse could ensure that most Gander locations would survive and would supersede that deal, according to the report.
St. Paul, MN-based Gander Mountain reported assets and debts each in the range of $500 million to $1 billion in its bankruptcy petition. Since 2012, the company has announced some 60 new stores, a major expansion stretching to 162 locations in 27 states, and it runs a direct-to-consumer catalog business as well as its Overton’s e-commerce retail unit from Greenville, NC. Midvale, UT-based Sportsman’s Warehouse has some 80 stores in 22 states, mostly in the Western and mid-Atlantic U.S.
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. Sports Authority, once the largest sporting goods chain in the U.S., was hobbled by mounting debt, weak e-commerce returns and failures to meet increasing challenges in the space, and ultimately filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and liquidated last year. Dick’s Sporting Goods meanwhile was able to snap up its intellectual property and many of its stores.
Eastern Outfitters, which includes discount retailer Bob's Stores and outdoor retailer Eastern Mountain Sports, has been plagued by similar troubles: The retailer filed for bankrupty protection in February and was bought by U.K. sports retailer Sports Direct just last week. Previous owner Versa Capital Management last year took over those units from Vestis Retail Group, which previously shuttered regional sports retailer Sport Chalet. (Versa also recently closed all remaining Wet Seal stores amid that teen apparel chain's second bankruptcy in about two years.)
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 is well-known for carrying today's most sought-after brands," Scott Carpenter, president of its retail solutions division, said in a press release emailed to Retail Dive. "Many of these brands are rarely, if ever, discounted, so shoppers will want to come in early to take advantage of these sales while selection lasts."
Outdoor retailer REI, however, is successfully swimming against the tide, thanks to a loyal, largely membership-based following, a highly-curated merchandise mix that includes many products not found everywhere else and an emphasis on customer experience in stores and out. Its award-winning Black Friday #OptOut campaign for the past two holiday seasons has fostered its emphasis on experience and helped REI garner loads of attention despite shuttering its retail operations that day.