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Sporting goods, clothing chain began as a bicycle repair shop.

One of the reasons the Gibbons group of stores continues to succeed, says Ken Gibbons, is the value and service offered in return for the customer's dollar.

Gibbons is the owner and his brother, Fred, is the general manager of Gibbons Cycle and Sports and Gibbons For All Seasons in Timmins, Gibbons Athletics in New Liskeard and two Athlete's World franchises, one in Timmins and one in North Bay.

The group, which has annual sales of about $2.5 million, has grown steadily since its debut 53 years ago as a single bicycle rental enterprise operated out of the family home by their father, Fred.

Ken joined the business 19 years ago. He feels a hands-on philosophy has also contributed to steady growth.

"We spend a lot of hours on the job. There is no aspect of the business either one of us cannot do," he says. And if things get busy, "we roll up our sleeves and get right back into it."

Fred came on board last year when the company opened Gibbons For All Seasons on Pine Street. The new outlet is located two stores away from the sports store. Although both stores are in rented premises, the building between them is owned by Gibbons and houses their offices as well as rental space.

The newest store, which combines athletic ware with lifestyle fashions, relieved crowding in the sports store.

Not every aspect of the expansion has gone perfectly, admits the owner. He confesses that he should have relied more "on financial packages."

Too much of the expansion, he says, was financed through internal cash flow. They particularly felt the impact of opening the new store on the verge of a market slowdown.

Fortunately, not all of the Gibbons's stores felt the economic downturn at the same time.

The weak economy has also meant that one of Gibbon's major competitors in Timmins has closed its doors. Super City Sports, says Fred Gibbons, was "pretty well a parallel business."

Ken Gibbons predicts that his stores will experience a slower-than-normal winter.

Meanwhile, the downtown sports store has been renovated to give it a more contemporary look-right down to the wall display units.

The owners are currently in the midst of interfacing both stores with the office computer system.

The next change will take place at Athlete's World in the Timmins Square Mall. Following that, they will tackle the North Bay Mall store.

As to where they get their ideas, Fred replies, "When we go on vacation, one place we spend a lot of time is in someone else's sporting goods store."

Gibbon's two Athlete's World franchises are the only two of the chain's stores not owned by Bata Shoes, the parent company. It was "time and opportunity" that led to the first franchise, since Gibbons owned a store in the mall at the time Bata was looking for rental space.

The Timmins' franchise has been operational for nine years and the North Bay franchise for eight.

The New Liskeard store is a bit of an odd duckling in the nest. It has taken on a discount-sales profile of late. With high unemployment in the area, there is a demand for sale items and less-expensive brands.

Fred Gibbons predicts that the retail industry will undergo a period of change in the coming years. Noting that retailers have responded to the recession by offering discounts and increasing promotion, he wonders how consumers will respond to the return to full price.

"There is a large adjustment to be made. I don't know if it is going to be an adjustment we have to make, or the customer," he says.

Gibbons is also interested in seeing how the retail industry responds to the emergence of factory outlets.
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Smith, Marjie
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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