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FRIDLEY, MN-Once a 15-store chain, United Outdoor Stores plans to close its last three Twin Cities stores by the end of the year. The Fridley-based retailer of outdoor apparel, camping equipment and sporting goods, which filed for bankruptcy protection last year, has begun final clearance sales at its stores in St. Paul, Roseville and Fridley.

Since United Outdoor peaked a decade ago with 15 stores, annual sales of $18 million and more than 100 employees, its business has declined with the incursion of sporting goods stores like Galyan’s, REI, Cabela’s and Gander.

In response to the rising competition, the company expanded its format from an average of 3,000 sf to 4,000 sf to one that averaged 6,000 sf to 8,000 sf. As a result of the closings, United Outdoor will leave some large holes in shopping centers like Har Mar Mall in Roseville, where it was one of the mall’s oldest tenants.

Last year, when United Outdoor filed for protection from creditors, the company had nine stores, and has since closed six of them. The chain, which opened a half century ago selling Army surplus, is headed by Ben Rischall, president of the chain. Rischall‘s father, Morrie, bought the business in 1981.

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