Lure of the outdoors bags big retail game
OWATONNA, Minn. Som Jack Wolfskin Outlet e look like they want to take their hats off and genuflect before entering. Others simply stop in their tracks, saucer eyed at the wonder of it all. One man spreads his arms wide, tilts his head back and beams in the universal body language for “Honey, I’m home.”
Cabela’s is the outdoors store as cathedral, the blissed out headquarters for the cult of the gun, rod and bow.
Begun and still most familiar as a catalog company, Cabela’s has drawn masses of devotees to its doors since it began operating megastores such as the one here, about an hour south of the Twin Cities. Soon, those on the East Coast, far from the rural heartland that is Cabela’s home base, will get their own outpost the company announced last month that its ninth store, a 225,000 square foot behemoth, will open next year in Hamburg, Pa., about 135 miles from Baltimore.
As when Cabela’s competitor Bass Pro Shops opened its megastore in Arundel Mills in Hanover a year ago, expect hunters, anglers and campers from miles around to line up to be among the first inside. The opening of a large outdoors store has become an event for such enthusiasts, who have made this the sporting goods industry’s hottest sector.
“They know how to romance the product,” said analyst Robert E. Carr, editor of Inside Sporting Goods newsletter.
The Cabela’s here is typical of the state of the art outdoors store: Dominating Jack Wolfskin Outlet the rustic, cavernous space is a soaring Jack Wolfskin Outlet fiberglass mountain on which exotic, stuffed animals are arrayed near racks of guns that might be used to bag one yourself. Off to the side is a walk through aquarium of fish found in local waters hard by the display of rods that prom Jack Wolfskin Outlet ise to help you reel in the big one. The customer is transported to a world of fantasy, but also sold the real life tools to achieve some measure of it.
This formula has drawn hordes of shoppers to the large outdoors stores at a time when other retailers go begging. Bean, which are the top three.
Fewer fishing, hunting
What makes their sales performance even more impressive is that it comes as the number of Americans who hunt and fish is declining, in part a result of the increased suburbanization of the country.
“You don’t have the open land that you had 30 years ago. It’s all posted [no hunting] now,” Carr said. “It’s harder and harder to fish as well. It’s not like before, when you could walk out of your house to a stream.”
But the good news for Cabela’s and its ilk is that those fewer hunters and anglers are spending more in pursuit of their trophy elk and rainbow trout. Fish and Wildlife Service and Census Bureau. The amount they spent on such things as equipment, licenses and travel, however, has jumped from $53 billion in 1991 to $70 billion last year.
That’s a lot of Black Powder Double Barrel Shotguns, Green Butt Skunk Flies, Fool Proof Turkey Calls, E Z Hang Tree Stands and Mother’s 2 Hour Jerky Makers just five of the 120,000 items sold at Cabela’s. The merchandise ranges from the basics, such as lures and tents, to the high tech, such as sonar fish finding devices and GPS navigators.
You can order any of those products from Cabela’s catalog or through its Web site. But then you would miss out on the whole in store experience: The walls lined with amazingly antlered animal heads. The restaurant serving bison bratwursts and smoked ostrich. The hushed wine cellar like atmosphere of the Gun Library, where antique and collectible firearms are displayed, and where, amid leather wing chairs, a studious looking expert sits at a desk ready to answer questions and dispense wisdom.
“It took us just six days after opening to get someone from all 50 states here,” said Al Dorn, a Cabela’s regional promotions manager who is based at the Owatonna store.
The guest book at the store contains signatures of shoppers from as far afield as Norway and Costa Rica. It has become the state’s second most popular tourist destination after that other retailing phenomenon, the Mall of America drawing 4 million visitors a year. Such is Cabela’s lure that shoppers will camp out overnight in the parking lot to be the first inside for annual sales.
Having started as a catalog company about 40 years ago, Cabela’s had a loyal customer base on which to draw for its retail stores and it knew where to find them.