In its first direct step into the granola outdoor space, Camping World Holdings Inc. reached an agreement to acquire Uncle Dan’s Outfitters, a specialty retailer of outdoor gear, apparel and camping supplies.
Terms were not disclosed.
Uncle Dan’s will mark Camping World’s fourth acquisition in the outdoor space this year and the first one centered on the camping and hiking space. On May 26, it completed the acquisition of Gander Mountain and Overton’s out of bankruptcy proceedings and followed that up with the July acquisition of TheHouse.com, an online retailer specializing in bikes, sailboards, skateboards, wakeboards, snowboards and outdoor gear.
Founded in 1972, Uncle Dan’s has four stores in the Chicago area and also operates the website udans.com. The locations include two in Lincoln Square and Lakeview, both located on the North Side of the city of Chicago. Two more are in Highland Park and Lincoln Square. Core brands include Patagonia, The North Face, Canada Goose, Icebreaker, Hydro Flask, Mountain Hard Wear, Merrell, Keen, Fjällräven and Marmot.
Brent Weiss, the owner of Uncle Dan’s, founded the business as Uncle Dan’s Army-Navy Surplus at the age of 16, according to the retailer’s website. The name was in honor of his Uncle, Dan Weinberg, who owned Boyce Surplus Goods on the north side of Chicago and was an early mentor to Weiss.
The first store, a 900-square-foot shop on Bryn Mawr Ave. in Chicago’s Hollywood Park neighborhood, an array of goods including canteens, combat boots, tents, sleeping bags and bell-bottom blue jeans.
By the ’90s, a focus more on style and versatility by several up-and-coming outdoor brands expanded the outdoor lifestyle opportunity and Uncle Dan’s began opening more stores while expanding the retailer’s outerwear, apparel, footwear and accessories assortments.
“While our product selection has changed over the years, we are still a locally owned business with a dynamic Chicago-based team. We only feature products in our stores we would use and wear ourselves and we love to share advice and stories to inspire your own adventures,” the company wrote on its website. “Whether you’re backpacking in the mountains, traveling through Europe, or navigating cold winters, we’re committed to help outfit you and your family for all of life’s adventures.”
In its statement, Camping World said the combination of these retailers and their e-commerce platforms provides it with a strong foundation in the outdoor lifestyle market that it plans to build upon.
“Under the leadership of Brent Weiss and family for over 45 years, Uncle Dan’s Outfitters strengthens Camping World Holding’s efforts to build a seamless approach to the outdoor lifestyle market and further positions the company to expand the reach and product offerings of our e-commerce business,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman of Camping World Holdings. “The management team not only possess strong knowledge of the outdoor outfitter market but also has a keen eye for the development and invention of new product offerings.”
Camping World added that the acquisition of Uncle Dan’s offers further evidence of its commitment to an omni-channel approach to penetrating the outdoor lifestyle market. The statement read, “Uncle Dan’s Outfitters will position the company for further growth to its expanding e-commerce platform at udans.com, by increasing customer reach and adding new quality product offerings.”
Uncle Dan’s will serve as the official supplier of outdoor gear, apparel and camping supplies to the company’s rebranded Gander Outdoors retail stores across the country.
Lemonis has said in the past that its acquisitions are expected to particularly enable the company to sell its Good Sam services business, which includes selling club memberships, credit card services, warranty insurance, repair and other aftermarket services, to a wider array of outdoor enthusiasts.
The company has noted that approximately 9 million households in the U.S. own an RV, and of that installed base, Camping World had approximately 3.5 million Active Customers at June 30, 2017, excluding the impact of the acquisition of Gander Mountain and Overton’s. As of the date of consummation of the Gander Mountain acquisition, Gander Mountain and Overton’s had an additional 2.5 million unique active customers that do not overlap with Camping World’s 3.5 million active customers.
“We really believe that we have the foundation to be an outdoor juggernaut,” said Lemonis on its second-quarter conference call in mid-August. “And people that live in the outdoor lifestyle have similar traits to them. They have similar demographic traits, similar socioeconomic traits. And we believe that we have the foundation, along with the Good Sam Club, to capitalize on that.”
Camping World’s core business is its 137 Camping World locations that represents the largest national network of RV-centric retail locations in the U.S.
Gander Mountain and Overton’s closed down its locations in bankruptcy proceedings and Camping World has said it expects to open between 40 and expects to reopen between 45 and 70 over the next several months. At the time Camping World reported second-quarter results, the current plan was to open the initial 15 to 20 Gander Mountain stores, which will be rebranded as Gander Outdoors, by the end of 2017, another 15 to 20 in the first few months of 2018, and an additional 15 to 30 during the balance of 2018, with measured growth thereafter.
The new Gander stores will be “much smaller in size,” versus Gander Mountain’s traditional store size, but the largest ones were expected to house all four concepts: Camping World, Overton’s, an active-lifestyle The-House section and Gander.
The House also operates three stores in St. Paul, MN in addition to TheHouse.com. Two Overton’s stores have already opened since the close of the acquisition.
On its second-quarter conference call, Lemonis said Camping World would continue to expand its database acquisition strategy through acquisitions of niche online properties as well as overall develop a stronger presence in e-commerce.
Said the CEO, “It’s my expectation that we will continue to look to make acquisitions that we believe enhance our dominance or our intended dominance in the outdoor lifestyle. But to be very clear, we are still looking for things that have significant earnings behind them, that have significant principles in terms of EBITDA margin contribution consistent with our existing business. This is not a goal to just add revenue to add revenue.”
Photo courtesy Uncle Dan’s Outfitters