The privately held outdoor retailer, based in St. Paul, MN, since 2012 has opened or announced some 60 new stores, a major expansion stretching to 162 locations in 27 states. Gander Mountain also runs its direct-to-consumer catalog internet business and 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 earlier this 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.
Source: Retail Dive