Canadian co-op buying Sportsman’s Warehouse

February 26, 2009

Frenzy, Frenzy News

Quick post/update of the Canadian Co-op buying Sportsman’s Warehouse.

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By JAN FALSTAD
Of The Billings Gazette Staff

A century-old cooperative in Calgary, Alberta, is attempting to buy the Sportsman’s Warehouse chain, including four Montana stores.

United Farmers of Alberta Cooperative Ltd., with more than 110,000 members, operates more than 35 farm and ranch supply stores and more than 120 fuel stations.

Recent wild price swings in farm and oil commodities, however, spurred the co-op to diversify. The company conducted a study of its members and found that many are outdoors enthusiasts.

“Farmers are our traditional customers, but they don’t just farm. They hunt, they fish and they camp, so this is a natural fit,” said Natalie Dawes, the co-op’s manager of corporate communications in Calgary.
She said the co-op is conducting due diligence on the Utah-based Sportsman’s Warehouse, and that effort is taking longer than expected. She wouldn’t say when the process to buy a majority of Sportsman’s Warehouse might be completed, and no purchase price was given.

A joint news release said the co-op’s annual revenues of $1.8 billion in 2007 would increase by $800 million with the acquisition of a majority interest in Sportsman’s Warehouse. And the Canadian cooperative made a significant, but undisclosed, cash injection into the retailer before the holiday shopping season.

Doug Mason, who manages the Billings store, which opened in August at 3676 Pierce Parkway on the West End, said he has no indicationthat his store will be affected by the sale.

That possibility was also brushed aside by senior vice president of Stores Jeremy Sage, who also works out of Billings. “There are no plans of closing this store or any stores in Montana. We’re moving forward with the deal with UFA,” Sage said.

Sage said the co-op is interested in buying 80 percent of Sportman’s Warehouse.

The U.S. chain employs 5,000 people at 67 stores in 38 states, including Montana, with stores in Billings, Bozeman, Missoula and Helena, and Wyoming, with a store in Casper.

Last July, the co-op branched into retail sporting goods by purchasing Calgary-based Wholesale Sports, which operates seven stores in Canada.

“We’re a rural retailer serving people who live and play in the country,” Dawes said.

In May, a chief competitor, Cabela’s, plans on opening its first Montana store in Billings off South Billings Boulevard. Sage said sales at the Billings store have been great and that his company competes directly with Cabela’s in several markets.

“For local employees, it won’t have any major effect on them other than to continue business as usual,” Sage said. “All the senior management will stay in place, and the daily operations will stay the same.”

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