Sportsman’s Warehouse has returned to Visalia in hopes of filling a niche it once left when it briefly had a store there in 2009.
The retailer, which celebrated its grand opening on Sept. 21, hosted several prominent members of the community for the ribbon cutting. It is the second Sportsman’s Warehouse location in the Valley. A Fresno location opened in 2015.
In the late 2000s, the corporation was still privately owned, but a combination of factors including a need to shrink debt forced the Visalia closure in 2009, along with 23 other stores across the nation, according to a 2009 article in SGB Media.
The store then shifted ownership and went public in 2014.
But now, the store hopes consumer temperament in Visalia will be different.
“The plan all along was to come back,” said Barbara Lairmore, general manager of the store.
At a time when the corporation is expanding, opening eight new stores in the first half of the year, the hope for Sportsman’s Warehouse is to take back market share and reclaim some of the losing ground in terms of sales, according to John Schaefer, CEO of the company, in an interview with SGB Media.
The problem was never Visalia, according to business leaders.
“Their reinvesting back into the community is a strong indicator for businesses that want to relocate here. Visalia spends a lot of money,” said Gail Zurek, president of the Visalia Chamber of Commerce. “When you look at our per person sales receipts, we do pretty well compared to the rest of California.”
Per person sales, also calculated as per capita sales, measures the average amount of sales per person by taking sales tax and dividing it into the population, according to Zurek. This means that while tourism may inflate the numbers a bit, it is still a good indicator of how much money people are willing to spend.
According to Census Bureau data, Visalia averages a little under $15,000 a year per capita, while the state average is just over $12,500. Modesto, which is comparable to Visalia, spends about $11,500 a year. Fresno does about the same.
“Our community has a lot of wealth, but because we are an ag-based community, we tend to be pretty humble,” Zurek said. “When businesses look at just the numbers, they miss the real story of our community. I’m glad businesses like Sportsman’s Warehouse see the real benefit of who we are and what we are.”
With Mineral King and Alta Peak just a few miles away, proximity plays another factor into the store.
“[Sportsman’s Warehouse] offers experiences for families and the types of things families in Visalia and Tulare County like doing,” Zurek said. “For people visiting our community, it’s a perfect stop before you head up to the national parks.”
The company describes itself as a “no-frills” store, which Lairmore describes as a wide variety of specific inventory.
For the consumer looking for outdoor gear, whether it be camping, fishing or hunting, odds are good, Lairmore said, that they’re going to have it.
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