Gander Mountain ruling paves path for direct launch

Eleven years after mailing its last catalog, Gander Mountain can get back into direct marketing again. A federal judge in July reversed an August 2005 ruling in favor of the sporting goods retailer, giving it the legal right to use its logo and name in all direct marketing channels, including catalogs and e-commerce.

Gander Mountain operates an informational Website and 108 retail stores in 22 states. The ability to sell through the Web and catalog will extend the company’s brand into areas of the country where it doesn’t currently have a presence, says Tim Martin, vice president of marketing and public relations. “That’s a huge opportunity,” he says, adding that Gander “is excited to get back into [the direct] business.”

Gander sold its direct arm to rival Cabela’s in 1996 for $35 million. The retailer lost the right to use its own brand or logo in direct marketing in 2005 after a two-year legal battle with Cabela’s. Lawsuits filed in 2003 claimed Gander violated its sales agreement by selling shotgun barrels on its Website. Gander claimed the agreement wasn’t meant to give Cabela’s permanent control over its direct marketing.

The previous ruling gave Gander the right to enter direct marketing, but usage of the logo and name was unclear. The decision ultimately meant it would need to establish a different brand — something Martin said the company didn’t want to try.

Gander Mountain definitely plans to launch its first e-commerce site and mail a catalog, although Martin wouldn’t state a timeframe. “We want to get there as soon as we can, but we don’t want to rush.”

Because the company has been out of the catalog business for more than a decade, it needs to lay plans for reentry. “We’ll have to be sure we’re able to fulfill and be sure we do that right,” says Martin, adding that Gander doesn’t want to get back into the direct marketing if it can’t live up to the reputation of the brand.

The ruling is subject to appeal by Cabela’s, which said in a statement that it is currently reviewing the ruling and discussing alternatives with legal counsel.

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