Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Ethical retailing' kills Gord's Ski shop

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IT'S the second time in five years Gord's Ski and Bike Centre has been pushed into receivership, and this time the doors will stay closed.

"It's kind of like cancer coming back a second time and it's more final," said an emotional Jean-François Ravenelle, the president and general manager of Gord's.

Gord's went into receivership this week. A liquidation sale is being held today.

"To be an independent specialty retailer in anything these days is a bit of an... endangered species list," said Ravenelle.

Most people knew Gord's by its single-digit address on Donald Street. Gord Reid founded the store in 1961 in the coat check of the Winnipeg Ski Club on Osborne Street. A member of the Manitoba Alpine Ski Hall of Fame, he sold the business in 1988 but stayed involved. He died in 2006.

One of his disciples, Ravenelle, rescued the company from receivership in 2008. Ravenelle said the staff tried to live by Reid's values. "He would say, 'Don't sell crap. Let the other guys sell crap,' " Ravenelle said in an interview in 2011.

But that's partly what killed Gord's. Big-box chain stores buy at the cheapest price and sell at the highest price, while Gord's offer of quality products couldn't compete, Ravenelle said.

"We've been doing our best to do the right thing, to sell the right stuff, to give customer service. Ethical retailing was something we believed in. But it's a bit of a ruthless world and it's a little difficult to do things that way."

Ravenelle revealed that Gord's wasn't in great shape when he took over in 2008. Then the non-winter of 2011-12 devastated it. "Snowboarding is way down." Ravenelle also inherited a Gord's location in Kenaston Shopping Centre.

"That had always been a boat anchor and we tried to get rid of it since day one," he said.

bill.redekop@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 4, 2013 A8

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