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Published: Friday, 4/19/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Local Gander store switches to sell guns only

With buying power, retailer not worried about inventory

BY TYREL LINKHORN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Gander Mountain is shifting the focus of its Springfield Township store away from being an outfitter for all things outdoors to a specialized gun retailer.

The new concept store will be called Gander Mountain Firearms Super Center. Work inside the store has been going on for several months, and much of the transformation is complete. A grand-opening event is planned for April 26-28.

The St. Paul retailer long has sold firearms in its stores alongside camping gear and outdoor apparel, but the guns-only concept is relatively new. The first store Gander Mountain switched over was in Germantown, Wis., in late 2011. A second store opened in February in Reynoldsburg, a Columbus suburb.

Depending on how you count, the Holland-Sylvania Road store here will be the third or fourth; Gander Mountain plans to open a Firearms Super Center outside of Grand Rapids, Mich., the same weekend.

“The core of the store is firearms,” said Steve Uline, Gander Mountain’s executive vice president of marketing. “It’s firearms, it’s ammunition, it’s firearms-related apparel, and tactical gear.”

The company says the store will feature a mix of new and used guns, ranging from home defense weapons to recreational shooting to hunting rifles. It also is pitching the new store as a place enthusiasts can find rare guns and ammo sizes. Gander Mountain says the store will be staffed by firearms specialists.

Gander Mountain has 119 stores in 24 states. The Springfield Township store opened in the Springfield Commons shopping center in 1999, and at a little more than 31,000 square feet is one of the chain’s smaller stores.

Mr. Uline said the company has found that stores that size don’t compete well when they try to sell everything from hunting to fishing to camping. But they are well-suited to be gun stores. They’ve also found Toledo to be a good market for gun sales, he said.

Company officials say Gander Mountain is cognizant of the public and political discourse surrounding firearm sales, but isn’t hesitant to expand its offerings.

“We’re comfortable with our position,” Mr. Uline said. “We play close attention to what’s going on, but we follow local, and state, and federal laws, and we’re proud to be a firearms retailer.”

It’s a booming business to be in right now. There’s no real way of telling exactly how many guns are sold in the United States in any given period. However, instant background checks through the Federal Bureau of Investigation do provide some insight into the number of people buying firearms. And the numbers are huge.

The FBI reported running nearly 19.6 million such checks last year, up 19 percent from 2011. That has continued into 2013, with more than 7 million instant background checks completed through March — a 44 percent increase from the 4.9 million checks in the same period in 2012.

The FBI cautions against assuming a one-to-one correlation between background checks and gun sales, but the statistics are useful in getting some idea of the number of sales. Many people, worried over potential changes to gun laws, have rushed out to buy firearms and ammunition in recent months. That has overwhelmed both distributors and retailers, who in many cases cannot replenish stock at their stores as quickly as they would like. Gun showcases in some Toledo-area stores remain mostly empty, with salesmen telling customers they don’t know what they’ll get in, or when they’ll get it.

Mr. Uline said Gander Mountain does not have inventory concerns. “I think we have an advantage over a lot of people in that we’re a leading firearms retailer, and when it comes to who’s going to get it first, the bigger guys are going to get it first and we’re one of the bigger guys,” he said. The company says personalities from History Channel’s Swamp People will be at the grand-opening event.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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