What Caused the Decline of Famous Army Stores?

Local Business


Besedky Team

What Caused the Decline of Famous Army Stores?:What happened to famous army stores? From being a go-to destination for military enthusiasts and bargain hunters alike, these iconic establishments have seen their fortunes rise and fall over the years. In this blog post, we will delve into the intriguing story behind the rise and fall of famous army stores, exploring the evolution of military surplus to modern retail, and discussing the lessons learned along the way. Join us as we uncover the secrets of these once-thriving establishments and speculate on what the future holds for the retail industry. So, grab your camouflage gear and let’s dive in!

The Rise and Fall of Famous Army Stores

Famous Army Stores once dotted the landscape, providing outdoors enthusiasts and military aficionados with a treasure trove of surplus goods. These stores were the go-to place for high-quality, affordable military gear, but as the retail world evolved, so too did the fate of these iconic shops.

The Shift in Ownership

The transition of Famous Army Stores began with its acquisition by Blacks Leisure Group in 2005. The purchase of 47 shops and all stock for ÂŁ1.7 million marked a significant change in the business’s trajectory. This acquisition was not just a transfer of ownership but also symbolized a shift in the retail market, where larger entities absorbed specialized stores to diversify their offering.

Integration into House of Fraser

Even before the Blacks Leisure Group’s acquisition, the Army and Navy Stores group had been integrated into a larger retail framework. In 1973, it was the House of Fraser that took the reins, a move that marked the beginning of the end for the standalone Famous Army Stores. By 2005, the remaining Army & Navy stores underwent refurbishment and rebranding, losing their original identity to become part of the House of Fraser’s wider retail empire.

Understanding Military Surplus Stores

Military surplus stores have historically served a niche market, selling items that are no longer needed by the military. These products range from clothing and camping equipment to miscellaneous gear that was over-purchased or phased out due to technological advancements.

The Origins of Military Surplus

The military surplus business is not a modern phenomenon. It dates back to 1872 when Francis Bannerman capitalized on the opportunity to purchase surplus from the U.S. Government. He recognized the potential in these goods, opening America’s first military surplus store on Broadway in New York City, setting the stage for a whole new industry.

Why Military Surplus Is Affordable and High-Quality

There’s a simple reason why military surplus is both cheap and of high quality: the army’s purchase expenses are covered, and their primary goal isn’t profit. There’s an ongoing incentive to clear out warehouses, making these goods accessible to the public. Additionally, military specifications often require equipment to be rugged and durable, ensuring the high quality of these surplus items.

The Evolution of Military Surplus to Modern Retail

The retail landscape has significantly changed since the heyday of the Famous Army Stores. Modern consumers shop differently, with a preference for brand experiences and one-stop shops. This evolution is epitomized by Old Navy, a division of Gap Inc., which has successfully adapted to the modern retail environment.

Old Navy’s Expansion

Old Navy, while not a military surplus store, represents the new age of retail that caters to a broad audience with its approachable brand and wide range of clothing options. In Manhattan’s Times Square, Old Navy has opened its largest store in the world, a testament to the brand’s growth and popularity. This 70,000-square-foot location, which sits alongside a Gap flagship, is a prime example of how retail experiences are being redefined.

Old Navy’s Parent Brand and Continued Existence

Old Navy remains under the umbrella of Gap Inc., a family-owned enterprise that boasts a lucrative revenue stream across its various brands. The Fisher family maintains ownership, and the brand has expanded to over 1200 stores worldwide. Old Navy’s success contrasts with the decline of specialized stores like Famous Army Stores, highlighting the importance of adaptability in retail.

Lessons Learned and the Future of Retail

The story of Famous Army Stores serves as a case study in retail evolution. Here are some lessons and predictions for the future:

Adaptability is Key

Retailers must adapt to changing consumer behaviors and market trends to stay relevant. Old Navy’s expansion and modern retail approach demonstrate the success that comes from understanding and catering to current consumer preferences.

The Niche Market Still Has Value

While Famous Army Stores may no longer exist in their original form, the niche market for military surplus remains. Retailers that can balance the unique appeal of specialized products with modern marketing strategies may still find success.

Experience Over Product

As seen with Old Navy’s Times Square flagship store, creating an immersive brand experience is becoming more important than the products alone. Retailers need to focus on creating destinations that attract and engage customers.

Online Integration

Brick-and-mortar stores face the challenge of integrating online shopping to provide a seamless customer experience. This hybrid model is likely to become the norm, with physical stores serving as showcases and fulfillment centers for online sales.

The Importance of Brand Identity

Finally, maintaining a strong brand identity is crucial. As the Famous Army Stores were absorbed and lost their distinctiveness, Old Navy has thrived by building and preserving its own identity. Retailers must recognize the power of brand loyalty and the need to foster it through every aspect of their business.


The tale of Famous Army Stores is one of transformation and, ultimately, obsolescence in the face of a changing retail environment. However, it also serves as a reminder of the enduring appeal of military surplus and the importance of adaptability in retail. Old Navy’s continued growth and the Fisher family’s stewardship highlight the potential success that awaits retailers who can navigate these waters with foresight and agility.

As we look to the future, the retail sector will undoubtedly continue to evolve, with new challenges and opportunities emerging. Yet, the principles gleaned from the past—adaptability, niche appeal, brand experience, online integration, and strong identity—will remain the cornerstones of successful retail strategy.

FAQ & Common Questions about Famous Army Stores

Q: What happens to military surplus guns?

A: Since 1996, the Army has transferred more than 700,000 surplus firearms to the Civilian Marksmanship Program, a federally chartered corporation that sells those firearms and promotes marksmanship and gun safety.

Q: What does the military do with old firearms?

A: If the firearms are obsolete but still usable, they are stored until needed or sold/gifted to allied militaries or their own nation’s police. Sometimes, these weapons are sold on the open market, while others are demilitarized (DEMIL) and sold for scrap or as decorations.

Q: Does the military sell old guns?

A: Yes, the fiscal 1996 NDAA authorized the CMP to sell certain types of surplus Army firearms to U.S. citizens, including M1 .30 caliber rifles.

Q: Can you wear military clothes as a civilian?

A: If you are attending a training camp or other course of instruction hosted by the military and you are a civilian, on some occasions you may be required to wear a military uniform. This is the only time that you are legally permitted to wear an authentic uniform as a civilian.

Q: Can old military uniforms be sold?

A: Yes, dealers in military memorabilia are delighted to get intact uniforms (with insignia) that they can sell to collectors.

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