The 20,075 day journey for GSM Outfitters
That’s right on June 13th GSM Outfitters will be 5 years old.
The following is a brief summary of from then till now.
In the last quarter of 2012, planning, writing, spreadsheets, licensing, development and what would become GSM Outfitters started. We knew the general area we wanted the business to be located, since at the time there were no outdoor clothing and gear retailers in the area.
We had an idea of what we would sell as well as what we would offer. But first things first, what do you call it? Name and location are critical to the success of any business. We will get to the location in a bit. After going over lots and lots of names we decided to just call it what it was GSM Outfitters: Great Smoky Mountains are where we are and outfitting is what we do.
The second thing “Location, Location, Location”. There were 2 sections of Wears Valley that were being considered. The first was Lyon Springs and the second was where we are now. There were 2 problems with the Lyon Springs Road location. If they ever opened the Foothills Parkway, a project that had been going on for between 40 and 50 years we would estimate losing 30% of the traffic that would drive past our door. The other was the cost to open a store on Lyon Springs. The cost per square foot would have been close to double what we pay now. Once we decided to turn down the Lyon Springs location we asked our realtor (Neva Wait) to look for something in the area where we are now. We started to head back to our jobs in Michigan with plans to start the process over again in a week or two. We had not even made it to Knoxville when the phone rang. It was Neva with news that there was a retail spot that had just become available. We asked her to set up a meeting in which we could meet the landlord and see the building the next weekend. The following Saturday we looked at the building and on Sunday we signed the lease.
As far as the opening of The Foothills parkway goes, for every person that said it would open there were at least 10 that said it would never open. I had spoken to someone that explained that when the contract had been written for the new construction on the Foothills in 2009 that there was an obligation for completion and there would be daily penalties if it did not open. In other words, it would open or penalties would be paid indefinitely. Bottom line, The Foothills Parkway opens this September or sooner. They are 2/3 done with the entries and exits in Wears Valley, everything else is done. When it opens, traffic passing our door will double. Folks that take I-75 from the North or South will be able to come into Wears Valley, Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg via the Foothills Parkway. This will be an exciting and much celebrated addition to the National Park!
Seems fitting that the Foothills Parkway and our anniversary are going to be so close. Back in 2013 when we opened the store there was little to no faith in the Foothills project. Despite that attitude, we were confident and chose our current location.
Once we opened the store we found the best resources for information and what merchandise to stock. It was our customers and no one else. Folks that frequent the mountains and area are a wealth of information. To date, our customers are the most important resource and not for sales. We listen to our customers, do our best to help them and develop relationships. Sales are not forced, they just happen.
The first two years of operation were slow and we just kept believing in our vision of what the store could be. Our third year of operation traffic to our store dramatically increased and our sales increased 27%.
From 2015 to 2016 our sales increased 44% and in 2016 we finally leveled out with a manageable increase of 10%.
What we do for a living does not feel like work. We don’t think of the people that shop at GSM Outfitters as customers, we think of them as friends! It is because of our friends that we are where we are today.
Thank you so much for the past! And we look forward to the future!
Be sure to stop in June 13th 2018 to help GSM Outfitters celebrate our 5 year anniversary. We will have treats to give to folks that come in. Throughout the day we will have giveaways. There will be discounts and gift certificates, tons of fun!!!
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