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Ramblers Way in Hanover Closes; Owner Cites Low Foot Traffic

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 5/12/2018 11:24:07 PM
Modified: 5/14/2018 10:54:57 AM

Hanover— Ramblers Way, the maker of sustainable wool clothing started by Tom’s of Maine founder Tom Chappell, has closed its Hanover store only 17 months after it opened on Main Street.

The move follows the closing of Ramblers Way’s Portsmouth, N.H., store.

Chappell and his family launched Ramblers Way in 2009 and opened the New Hampshire stores in 2016 as part of an “experiment” to test a bricks-and-mortar retail strategy but has been forced to close the two stores because not enough customers visited them, Chappell said on Friday.

“We’ve been pretty disappointed in the lack of foot traffic in both Portsmouth and Hanover,” he said. “And when you don’t have the foot traffic it’s pretty hard to engage someone in sustainable clothing.”

The company’s store in Portland, Maine, is doing well, however, and Ramblers Way still is planning to open stores in Boston and New York, Chappell said.

“Portland is a unique market with sophisticated tourists and year-round Gen Xers and baby boomers that will come in from the surrounding areas to shop,” Chappell said. “We loved the store location we had in Hanover, but when you are there all day and not a single soul comes into the store ... you just can’t deny those things.”

Chappell’s comments echo the experience of many retailers in downtown Hanover, which has seen a steady drumbeat of apparel store closings in recent years, including Rare Essentials and Essentials for Men, Clay’s and Rosey Jekes. Last month, Folk, the purveyor of artisan crafts and clothing imported from Latin America, announced it would be closing as well.

Chappell said Ramblers Way chose Hanover to open a store because it wanted to test the concept in a college town with a year-round population of students and visiting parents and the strong economic base in the community provided by Dartmouth College and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. But “it was quite clear the more urban markets are by far a better opportunity for us,” he said.

Ramblers Way also opened a retail store just as the Internet’s takeover of shopping hit gale-force winds level, leading to the widespread closings of storefronts across the country. The shift toppled once mighty retail giants such as Sears and Toys R Us. The Upper Valley has not been spared as many longtime shops have closed their doors and the White River Junction apparel manufacturer, Ibex, went out of business.

But what the Internet takes away, it also gives: Chappell said online sales directly to customer through the company’s online store now represent the No. 1 source of sales for the company and 50 percent of the people who purchase online are repeat customers.

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