By Greg Gerber
Writer and Podcaster
I think I have discerned Camping World’s retail strategy and it is brilliant.
Emperor Marcus Eralius Augustus Tiberious Lemonis, the part-time CEO of Camping World and full-time star of his reality TV show, The Profit, announced yesterday that he was acquiring outdoor gear website TheHouse.com.
I’ve said before that Lemonis is no idiot. He’s shrewd, calculating and willing to take risks. But, when he does, he usually has a pretty good idea of the outcome before he takes his first step.
Yesterday’s announcement that Camping World is acquiring the House.com just weeks after acquiring Gander Mountain’s retail stores and website along with Overton’s online store – while buying up more RV dealers – seemed confusing at first glance.
Does Lemonis want to be in the retail or online business? Conventional wisdom says he can’t do both well. But, as anyone in the RV industry understands, Lemonis is anything but conventional.
Brick and mortar stores allow instant availability of products, provided people are willing to drive to the location to buy them. Traditional stores require more people and tremendous overhead for commercial real estate. As a result, prices are typically higher than when consumers buy items on the web.
Online stores require fewer employees, need less expensive warehouse space and offer a wider range of products at lower prices. However, buyers must wait one to four days for the items to be delivered.
What if Lemonis has developed a strategy to do both?
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos briefly became the world’s wealthiest man yesterday at the helm of the online juggernaut. We know Lemonis has ambitions to be a major player in the outdoor industry.
Amazon’s free two-day delivery benefit for Prime members has been a game changer that has crushed shopping centers and malls around the nation. But, people still need to wait to get product delivered. Amazon Prime Now is testing same-day delivery in big cities that are home to major warehouses.
Lemonis has more than 100 smaller warehouses in the form of Camping World superstores scattered around the country.
Imagine people ordering aftermarket camping, boating and other recreation products at campingworld.com and enjoying several delivery options:
- Free two-day shipping on orders totaling $50 or more.
- Same-day delivery within 25 miles of a Camping World store for just $10 regardless of the amount ordered.
- A $5 discount to pick up the order at a Camping World store.
Why offer a discount to pick it up products in a store? Because it saves Camping World shipping and delivery expenses, but, more importantly, Lemonis knows he’ll sell more impulse items when people come into the store.
This is a business model that even Amazon can’t compete against because the firm lacks retail centers. This gives Lemonis an opportunity to literally corner the outdoor product market and actually steal market share from Amazon – something few people don’t even think is a possibility.
Camping World remains the best option for buying out retiring RV dealerships because competitors like Campers Inn don’t have the capital to acquire locations at the same pace Lemonis currently enjoys.
Consequently, the firm will only expand its retail locations in the years ahead. When Camping World can claim 250 locations – and certainly by the time it can claim 500 locations – then it can approach RV manufacturers to become factory direct delivery centers. But, that’s the topic of another editorial.