Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe acquires Hood River Outfitters

Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe will open a fourth store in Hood River, Oregon, following the recent acquisition of Hood River Outfitters from Jeff Hammer. The new location will open Feb. 1, 2006, establishing Alder Creek's presence in an important recreation and tourist location.
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Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe, with two stores in Portland, Oregon, and another in Bend, will be opening a fourth location in Hood River, following the recent acquisition of Hood River Outfitters from Jeff Hammer. The new location will open on Feb. 1, 2006, SNEWS® was told. Hammer will retain ownership of the North Pacific Surfboards manufacturing facility, located behind the store. North Pacific manufactures custom surfboards.

Dave Slover and Jim Miller acquired Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe in October 2004. Slover lives in Hood River and owns All Star Rafting, based out of Maupin, Ore.

The new Hood River location will include retail space, and Alder Creek will partner with All Star Rafting to establish a call center for reservations in the building's upstairs space. Plans are also in place to use the building for All Star's White Salmon River rafting operations.

The acquisition of the Hood River location establishes Alder Creek's presence in an important recreation and tourist location. Miller told SNEWS®, "The store's focus is to serve the growing number of year-round gorge residents and to give summer tourists alternative recreation activities. Kayak and canoe sales, rentals, instruction and tours oriented toward active beginners and families represent the main target of our business."

Miller said, "We take the space January 1 and will be working to re-merchandise the store and get our computer system in place. We will conduct an official open house on February 3."

As for what customers can expect, Miller told us that the Alder Creek model he and Slover have established will hold true for the Hood River store and future stores that may be in the works. Alder Creek has moved away from lifestyle clothing to focus on what paddlers want, such as boats, paddling gear and accessories.

"Hood River gives us a very nice multi-store opportunity," said Miller. "With Portland only one hour away, we can use Portland as a warehouse for smaller units and to serve our warehouse business.

"What we have learned from our expansion in Portland is that the concept of multiunit retailing is made successful by being able to efficiently move inventory from location to location with a business model that is scaleable," added Miller.

Still, Miller knows that he and Slover need to ensure that the Hood River is running smoothly before they look for the next expansion or acquisition.

"While I have learned to never say never, I would say that we won't add any more stores this year," Miller told us. While he admits he has a full plate, Miller said the overall goal is to have more small retail units, and for each unit to "carve out a small footprint in a location" and "create its own personality that complements the personalities of the other locations."

In Bend, for example, Alder is more focused on rafting supplies. In Portland's new boathouse location, the company is catering to the Dragon boating business and outrigger clubs – more fitness-oriented paddling. The other Portland location caters more to performance touring and sells a lot of canoes as well, Miller said.

"In Hood River, we will likely focus on a mix that is more rec, touring and canoe-focused and see what the customers ask for," Miller said. "Naturally, we will also be rafting focused to support those several hundred folks who will come through each day during rafting season."

As for long-tern goals, Miller said he and Slover have in mind the need to own both the inventory and the real estate. This would allow them to create an exit strategy for the distant future, where they could sell the business and either lease the buildings back or sell the building along with the business.

SNEWS® View:
Savvy move by Miller and Slover. As we intimated in our view following the story announcing the change in ownership at Alder in 2004, the company had been losing business to the Kayak Shed in Hood River. This now puts two very solid paddlesport retailers in a location that can easily support both, and should. And, it now gives Alder the foothold it needs in that critical market.

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