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ST. PAUL-Outdoor retailer Gander Mountain Co.’s year-over-year same-stores sales dropped 8.5% in its third quarter mainly due to high energy costs and unusually warm weather, executives say. The company also posted a $7.5 million loss during its Q3, which ended Oct. 29.

Net sales for the retailer came in at $214.4 million, a 20% increase. The average ticket transaction rose from $56 to $59, but sales per sf fell from $208 to $182, due to low traffic in newer stores and weak sales of high-margin items like apparel and footwear.

Gander Mountain opened nine new stores during the quarter, bringing its total unit count to 98. The chain also entered three new states: Kansas, Maryland and North Carolina. Next year it will open six to eight new stores, executives say.

Prompted by an analyst on the company’s quarterly conference call, executives also revealed their exposure to nearby competitors. Of its 98 units, 25 are in Cabela’s markets, 23 are by a Bass Pro Shop and 14 are in the vicinity of a Sportsman’s Warehouse.

Despite the tough quarter executives on the call reiterated their concept’s “tremendous opportunities for growth,” saying that the US could support a total of 300 Gander Mountain units. “We remain confident in our ability to make an attractive profit in this business and continue to grow,” said Dennis Lindahl, the chain’s chief executive officer.

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