Franchi coming to Gander Outdoors

Gander Outdoors announced Italian gun maker Franchi will join the outdoor retailer's overhauled inventory. (Photo: Franchi/Facebook)

Gander Outdoors announced shotgun manufacturer Franchi will join the outdoor retailer’s overhauled inventory. (Photo: Franchi/Facebook)

Gander Outdoors announced Thursday shotgun manufacturer Franchi will join the outdoor retailer’s overhauled inventory promised when CEO Marcus Lemonis took over the company earlier this year.

Franchi began making firearms in northern Italy in 1868 and claims to have “perfected the art of building double-barrel and auto-loader shotguns.” Customers visiting the re-branded Gander Mountain stores will find Franchi products and the newly-signed brands Henry Repeating Arms, Crosman and Pulsar Night Vision in stock later this year.

Gander Mountain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections in Minnesota court on March 10. Camping World, the nation’s largest recreational vehicle dealer, led the investor group that bought out $390 million worth of Gander Mountain assets, including its Overtons boating business, during an April 28 auction. More than half of the chain’s 162 locations shuttered after a nationwide liquidation sale ended last month.

In the weeks following the bankruptcy auction, Lemonis changed the company’s name to Gander Outdoors, crowd-sourced a new logo and maintained an evolving list of surviving locations — down to 57 from a planned 70 — on his Twitter account. Meanwhile, the revised company announced a slew of new product offerings designed to deliver on Lemonis’s promise to offer a larger assortment of guns 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 in May. “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.”

Gander Mountain, the brainchild of Robert Sturgis, an avid outdoorsman from rural Wisconsin, began in 1960 as a mail-order catalog for other shooting sports enthusiasts. After a 1968 federal law prohibited catalog sales of firearms, Sturgis grew the business to include camping and fishing gear.

Over the years, Gander moved headquarters to Minnesota and, by 2012, had branded itself as “America’s Firearms Superstore,” embarking on an aggressive expansion campaign to open 60 new locations across the country — a move Lemonis said ultimately led to the company’s downfall.

“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,” he told investors in May. “Terrible, terrible inventory, terrible overhead, and candidly they didn’t need 160 stores.”