UPDATE: Gander Mountain has filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Paul, MN, The Wall Street Journal reports.
UPDATE: The privately held outdoor retailer, itself based in St. Paul, said Friday that it will begin soliciting going-concern bids for its business in the coming weeks. In the event Gander Mountain receives multiple offers, it hopes to hold an auction in late April, with a final sale closing by May 15. The company will maintain operations during the Chapter 11 process, with about 30 underperforming stores slated to close.
UPDATE: Gander Mountain reported assets and debts each in the range of $500 million to $1 billion in its bankruptcy petition. Since 2012 the company opened or announced some 60 new stores, a major expansion stretching to 162 locations in 27 states, and also runs a direct-to-consumer catalog internet business as well as its Overton’s e-commerce retail unit from Greenville, NC.
Fierce competition in the sporting goods space is catching up to retailers that may have overextended themselves or failed to keep up with evolving trends and changing customer demands. 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 filed for bankruptcy and liquidated last year. Dick’s Sporting Goods acquired its intellectual property and many of its stores.
Eastern Outfitters, which includes discount retailer Bob's Stores and outdoor retailer Eastern Mountain Sports, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month; that retailer is owned by private equity firm Versa Capital Management, which 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, that are dependent on them.
REI, though, 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 Black Friday #OptOut campaign for the past two holiday seasons helped foster that emphasis on experience and helped REI garner loads of attention despite shuttering its retail operations that day.