In a move that should greatly diversify and expand Camping World Holdings Inc.’s (CWHI) brand within the outdoor recreation and marine markets, Chicago-based CWHI will be integrating many of its newest Camping World stores with the Gander Outdoors and Overton’s marine retail outlets it acquired in 2017, according to CWHI Chairman Marcus Lemonis.
While he had hinted previously about a combined brand strategy that would integrate the outdoor, marine and RV markets for the first time — fueling expansion of 140-store CWHI’s Good Sam Club — Lemonis hadn’t revealed CWHI’s bigger game plan for a conjoined retail network until yesterday’s (May 6) RVBusiness interview.
This rather surprising news follows an unprecedented series of CWHI new store announcements, some by acquisition and others for the first time through new store construction. And it’s those new store builds, Lemonis explained, that will become the first of a series of amalgamated retail outlets in which hiking, hunting, fishing and archery gear will be displayed and sold for the first time on a national scale under the same roof with marine accessories, RVs and RV aftermarket parts and accessories.
“Well, I think there’s two ways to think about it (these new stores),” Lemonis told RVBUSINESS.com. “One is just simple acquisitions that are consistent with what we’ve always done. I don’t think there’s really anything different there. Maybe there’s a few more stores, and there’s obviously a lot more coming. But in addition to that, I would expect that between acquisitions and new store openings, we’ll have probably two dozen more dealerships on Jan. 1 of 2019 than we did on the same day in 2018 – maybe more.”
Lemonis says it’s all part of Camping World’s new “four-legged” strategy.
“All of the stores that we’re building now, not completely but for the most part, are being built as Ganders and Overton’s as part of them,” he explained. “And so in the markets that we’re building in, there’ll be a massive Gander, a massive Overton’s and a Camping World – all integrated. And separate from that, of the Ganders that will be opened in 2018, we’ll have RV sales integrated into more than 20 of them, but people don’t know they’re coming. So, the locations, facilities and markets that we picked were good for Ganders, but they also made for ripe RV markets.”
“Our long-term goal is to have a four-legged stool, and the four-legged stool’s pretty simple: It’s got different industries underneath each leg with Good Sam members getting to enjoy the benefits of all of those legs.”
The new build locations that have already been announced – some of them former Gander Mountain locations reopening as combined “supercenters” by the first quarter of 2019 — include Augusta, Ga.; Huber Heights, Ohio; Lafayette, La.; Wichita, Kan., Baxter, Minn., and Eau Claire, Wis., as well as Rockford and Marion, Ill.
At the same time, Camping World recently acquired the following existing dealerships that are to continue operating as stand-alone stores: Dixie RV Superstore, Newport News, Va. (not to be confused with a larger dealer based in Hammond, La.), in addition to B & B RV Center, Anderson, Calif.; River City Recreation World, Sherwood, Ark.; plus two South Dakota stores, Spader’s RV Center in Sioux Falls and New Prairie RV Southtown located in Worthing.
Asked what Camping World’s total store count might be by the end of the year, assuming things continue to go well for CWHI and the economy, Lemonis declined to venture a guess. “Honestly, I wouldn’t know the number,” he said, “but for me the economy staying stable has nothing to do with it. I typically accelerate when everybody else thinks it’s decelerating. And we don’t think it’s decelerating.”