As Gander Outdoors’ parent company has shifted its focus away from outdoor retail and toward recreational vehicles, the future of Janesville’s Gander Outdoors store is unclear.
As of Tuesday, everything in the Janesville store at 2900 Deerfield Drive was priced 40% off, with some apparel marked to 50% off. Last week, the store had all items marked 30% off.
On Tuesday evening, the store was mobbed with lines of customers waiting at checkouts with carts full.
Crain’s Chicago Business earlier this month reported Camping World, which bought former outdoors retailer Gander Mountain out of bankruptcy in 2017 and rebranded some of the stores as Gander Outdoors, now plans to shift away from an “outdoor retail strategy.”
Crain’s reported that Camping World, a mainly recreational vehicle sales and service-focused company, plans to close 27 to 37 locations, “strategically shifting away” from running stores that don’t sell and service RVs.
The Janesville store is set up as an outdoor, hunting, fishing and camping retail store and doesn’t currently sell or service RVs.
Crystal Wethal, an employee at the Janesville store, said employees at the store hadn’t yet learned which stores could be closing.
“We do not know which ones are or are not closing at this point. Rockford is the only one that’s officially said they’re closing,” she said. “We have not personally heard, yet. It’s been in the talk, about the possibility, but we do not know for sure, yet.”
Camping World in May 2017 paid $36 million in a bankruptcy auction to buy all of Gander Mountain’s 160 U.S. locations, according to an SEC filing. Shortly after the buyout, Gander Mountain announced it would go out of business and hold a company wide inventory liquidation, including at Janesville’s former Gander Mountain.
Camping World reopened the Janesville store as a Gander Outdoors in 2018.
Wethal said her coworkers have learned that “most of the small stores are being looked at for possible closure,” but, she said, she believes some stores might merge with bigger stores that sell and service RVs and campers.
“That’s what’s making the money,” Wethal said.
According to court documents, Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis said in a 2017 earnings call with investors that Camping World aimed to rebrand and reopen some of the smaller-footprint Gander Mountain stores.
The company’s strategy in buying and reopening rebranded Gander Mountain stores, Lemonis told analysts, was that Camping World could cultivate a broader customer base that it could eventually sell Camping World’s RV-based products and services.
Camping World faced an investor lawsuit in 2018 that questioned the overall health of the company, according to court filings, and it has been weathering what national media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, have characterized as a nationwide slump in RV sales.