Gander Outdoors new top executive criticized the company’s former management last month for wasting $100 million on a bad assortment of guns — a mistake he promises to correct as the surviving stores move forward.
“I spent a day talking to a number of store managers and customers who have said that the current most recent management at Gander got really away from its core customer and really bet a $100 million on guns and was wrong,” said Gander Outdoors CEO Marcus Lemonis during a May 4 conference call with investors.
“I’d rather have 50 stores heavily curated for that local market than 150 stores that look like everything is the same, which is essentially what it was. Just a really shitty inventory system is what they have … never seen something so stupid,” he continued.
Gander Mountain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections in Minnesota court on March 10, indicating its intention to shutter 32 stores in 11 states and liquidate more than $500 million worth of assets.
Camping World, the nation’s largest recreational vehicle dealer, led the investor group that paid $38 million for Gander Mountain’s intellectual property, store leases and its Overtons boating business, during an April 28 auction. Lemonis said a separate liquidation company bought the store inventory currently on sale across the country.
In the days following the auction, Lemonis changed the company’s name to Gander Outdoors. He’s released the latest updates on store closures and changes for the brand via his Twitter account.
Lemonis said about 70 of the existing 162 Gander Mountain stores will remain operational, complete with more firearm selections at better prices.
“Well, we are going to have a selection of handguns and shotguns that we believe serve the need of the market and have margins that are commensurate with our expectations,” he told investors last month. “But I would expect that in those stores, we’re going to see an expansion of fishing, potentially getting back into the live bait business and really digging into what the consumer wanted.”
Still, Lemonis said his main priority remains the RV business as he blamed the collapse of Gander Mountain on “poor real estate transactions” and “undisciplined inventory buying.”
“Their largest shareholder was creating direction on inventory,” he said. “Not curated market by market. Not really understanding what sells in Michigan doesn’t necessarily sell in Jacksonville, Florida and really understanding that.”
He added, “Terrible, terrible inventory, terrible overhead, and candidly they didn’t need 160 stores.”