Following several years of robust gun sales, Gander Mountain said Tuesday that it is expanding its national push into firearms with a new big-box gun store in Texas that will open this fall.
The St. Paul-based sporting goods company said its Firearms Super Center in Mesquite, Texas, will be its ninth gun concept store nationwide and offer an expanded collection of new and used guns, specialty apparel and ammunition. The company also announced that it will open three new outdoor gear and apparel stores in the Lone Star State by this fall, adding to its 11 stores in Texas.
“Texans love the outdoors and have passed down great traditions like hunting, fishing, hiking, boating and camping for generations,” David Pratt, Gander Mountain’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “We are happy to … give more people in more regions of the state opportunities to experience our top-quality gear and knowledgeable service at great prices.”
But its growth in Texas is just the latest in series of moves for Gander. The company opened its first gun-centric store in 2011 and now has Firearms Super Centers in Rogers, Minn., as well as seven locations in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and North Carolina.
The company’s increasing presence in the gun market comes as nationwide firearm sales are growing at a rapid pace. Manufacturers’ firearms sales to sporting goods retailers totaled $3.2 billion in 2012, up from $2.8 billion in 2010, according to a Sports & Fitness Industry Association report. More recently, a surge in firearms sales followed the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn., as gun owners and enthusiasts anticipated tighter gun regulations. After months of debate, national legislation failed to pass.
Gander is also facing increasing competition in the gun market from other sporting retailers such as Cabela’s, which has ultimately driven the retailer to look beyond its smaller format and come up with specialty concepts. Gander’s Firearms Super Center aims to compete with its big-box rivals with 2,500 new and used guns in its inventory, including handguns, shotguns and centerfire rifles.
Flora Delaney, a retail consultant who has worked with Gander Mountain, said the company has seen an increase in gun sales since 2008. Spokesman Jess Myers would not release specific sales figures but said the Firearms Super Centers have been “a very successful concept” across the country and he expects Texas to be no exception.
“We clearly look at this as an excellent place to do business and a place that’s fertile for successful expansion,” he said.
In addition to guns, Gander is making a foray into footwear, revamping dozens of stores to create a more friendly environment for shoe shoppers.
The privately held company also is adding 20 new performance footwear brands, ranging from Keen Utility to Asics. The company wouldn’t disclose the financial numbers behind the initiative but called it a “major investment.” Gander Mountain stores now feature hundreds of styles for hiking, hunting and outdoor shoes, as well as boots, sandals and athletic styles.
“One of the big things that runners like is customer service,” said VJ Mayor of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. “They’re loyal to their stores if the stores are loyal to them.”
Delaney said the key to the company’s success as it expands nationally will be to localize its merchandise and marketing. Because Gander Mountain specializes in outdoor gear and apparel, it has to be more attuned to regional preferences than a general sporting goods store.
“In order to succeed, a company like Gander Mountain has to be excellent at understanding the variations in hunting and fishing seasons, prey and traditions,” Delaney said. “My past experience with [the company] would tell me that they’re exceptional at it.”