Camp­ing World to ac­quire lo­cal Gan­der Moun­tain store

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - BUSINESS - BY DAVE FLESSNER STAFF WRITER

Two months af­ter its former owner filed for bank­ruptcy, the Gan­der Moun­tain store in Hix­son is get­ting a new owner and should have a new name and look by the end of the sum­mer.

Camp­ing World, which al­ready op­er­ates 162 stores in­clud­ing its East Ridge RV sales and ser­vice fa­cil­ity and camp­ground at 6734 Ring­gold Road near I-75, is pre­par­ing to take over the Gan­der Moun­tain store in the Oak Park Town Cen­ter on High­way 153 and at least 62 other stores. Camp­ing World emerged as the top bid­der for the bank­rupt Gan­der Moun­tain in an auction last month.

Last week, Camp­ing World dis­closed the lo­ca­tions of at least 63 of the 170 Gan­der Moun­tain stores it plans to con­tinue to op­er­ate, in­clud­ing Ten­nessee stores in Hix­son and Jack­son.

Camp­ing World has un­til Oct. 6 to de­ter­mine which ad­di­tional re­tail leases it wants to as­sume and the com­pany said in a fil­ing last week that its cur­rent goal is to op­er­ate 70 or more of the Gan­der Moun­tain stores.

Mar­cus Le­mo­nis, CEO of Camp­ing World and star of the CNBC pro­gram The Profit, told the Wall Street Jour­nal he could keep as many as 70 Gan­der Moun­tain stores, de­pend­ing on con­ces­sions from land­lords and other fac­tors.

“My goal is to keep open as many stores as I pos­si­bly can that have a clear path to prof­itabil­ity,” Le­mo­nis told the Wall Street Jour­nal. “In my opin­ion, the com­pany had a real es­tate and in­ven­tory prob­lem, not a

peo­ple prob­lem.”

The out­spo­ken CEO of Camp­ing World last week called some of the man­age­ment steps taken by Gan­der Moun­tain “stupid” and vowed to fo­cus more on fish­ing equip­ment and less on firearms within the stores and to con­cen­trate on more prof­itable store lo­ca­tions. Gun sales de­clined last fall af­ter the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, which re­moved the threat — real or per­ceived — of tighter con­trols and lim­its on gun own­ers.

Camp­ing World chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Brent Moody said the new own­ers of Gan­der Moun­tain will “im­me­di­ately right size the in­ven­tory and op­er­ate only in re­tail lo­ca­tions with oc­cu­pancy costs that we be­lieve sup­port prof­itable op­er­a­tions.”

The lo­cal 50,0000-square­foot Gan­der Moun­tain in Hix­son opened in 2014, but its cur­rent 15-em­ployee staff that is help­ing to liq­ui­date the store’s in­ven­tory is only about half of what Gan­der Moun­tain em­ployed a year ago.

The bank­ruptcy and merger of Gan­der Moun­tain into Camp­ing World comes as Bass Pro Shops pre­pares to ac­quire ri­val Ca­bela’s in the third quar­ter of this year. That also will com­bine two lo­cal play­ers in the hunt­ing, fish­ing and out­door re­tail­ing space.

Bass Pro re­vised its orig­i­nal of­fer for Ca­bela’s to re­duce its of­fer by $500 mil­lion to about $5 bil­lion last month. The deal will com­bine the 85-store Ca­bela’s chain with about 100 stores op­er­ated un­der the Bass Pro Shops ban­ner.

Last year, an­other sport­ing goods re­tailer, Sports Author­ity, also filed for bank­ruptcy and closed 300 stores, in­clud­ing a lo­cal out­let in Brain­erd.

PHOTO BY DAVE FLESSNER

Gan­der Moun­tain in Hix­son is con­duct­ing a store clear­ance sale as it liq­ui­dates its in­ven­tory fol­low­ing a March bank­ruptcy fil­ing by the St. Paul, Minn.-based out­door re­tailer. Camp­ing World, which has pur­chased the as­sets of the bank­rupt Gan­der Moun­tain, has iden­ti­fied the store on High­way 153 as one of those it plans to con­tinue to op­er­ate.

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