The Orvis Co. has embarked on an aggressive bricks-and-mortar expansion that should double — to 40 percent — the contribution of retail store sales to overall revenue, says George Haskins, director of retail. The Manchester, Vt.-based sporting goods chain is building three large-format new stores this year and, based on their success, will construct as many as five big stores next year and seven in 2006.

It's looking at lifestyle centers and free-standing sites, where it will find the space (on average, 16,000 square feet) to create one- and two-story interactive retail-as-destinations that capture the Orvis country lifestyle, says Haskins. They will include casting ponds with live trout, where anglers can take fishing lessons and try out rods, and lodge-style fireplaces.

“The addition of many large stores should help us reestablish our brand,” says Haskins, who believes shoppers will relate more to the company's country brand than they do online or via catalog. Orvis, founded 150 years ago as a fly-fishing mail-order business, now supplies wing-shooting gear. About half its sales come from soft goods, including sportswear, says Haskins.

Opening this year: a 16,500-square-foot store at The Plaza at Preston Center (privately owned) in Dallas. It replaces a 4,000-square-foot space in a strip mall two miles away, a 15,000-square-foot store in the lifestyle component of Richard E. Jacobs Group's Triangle Town Center in Raleigh, N.C. (shown at left, this is its first large-format store outside its Manchester flagship), and a 12,500-square-foot store at Taubman's Centers' Cherry Creek in Denver.

At year's end, Orvis will have 32 stores.