October 4, 2016

Bass Pro Shops Buys Cabela's: What happens now?

I caught whiffs of a possible merger between Bass Pro and Cabela’s a few months back, but I never thought something of this size would happen within the industry. However, I also thought I’d never see the day where a Miller High Life and a Budweiser are brewed underneath the same company, but I was wrong on that one too.

The consolidation of two massive brands like Bass Pro and Cabela’s leaves me wondering what that means for the average hunter like you and me. If I’m being honest, I’m skeptical of big corporate mergers like this - they’re messy, rife with political battles and they often lead to slowing things down within the company, which in most cases is not good for us. However, I don’t think it’s all bad, and in being the loyal Cabela’s customer I’m hopeful for the future. Below are some of the questions and thoughts I have on what this means for hunters like you and me.

What happens to the Cabela’s branded products?

The press release states that Bass Pro wants to continue to grow the Cabela’s brand, but what exactly does that mean? Are they going to keep the two companies separate or will they eventually fold everything under one house? I for one love some of the Cabela’s branded products. I have a pair of Cabela’s waders I’ve fished in for years, and one of my favorite purchases of all time are the Cabela’s Mendl Peferkt hunting boots. What happens to these types of products over time? Do I need to start stockpiling boots like the .22 ammo shortage a few years ago?

What happens to the store locations?

If you’re like me, you know where the closest Cabela’s or Bass Pro is to you. I was extremely lucky to have a Cabela’s open up 20 minutes away from my hometown, which is one of many reasons why I’m a loyal Cabela’s customer. Bass Pro always seemed like an amusement park or destination for families to visit, whereas the Outfitters at Cabela’s know their stuff and will help get you dialed in for that upcoming season or trip. Who knows what will happen to the various locations, but from the press release the combined company doubles the amount of retail locations with a good geographical spread across the country. Cabela’s tends to have have more shops in the west, and Bass Pro has more shops in the east.

The competitive landscape

Competition is good for us consumers. As brands compete, we tend to benefit with better products and pricing. Retail is a tough business, and it seems that competition was the driving force behind this merger. These large big box stores deal with a lot of overhead to operate their outfits, and that becomes increasingly more difficult as the world shifts to more online buying. Whenever I’m back home I’ll go and visit Cabela’s to stock up on a few things, but I’ve been buying more of my gear online lately, primarily through Amazon surprisingly enough, due to the ease of shipping and price.

On top of that, you have the smaller more “specialized” hunting brands coming out that are going direct to consumer, completely cutting out the retailer in some cases like KUIU. On the internet, small brands can compete for the user’s attention vs battling for shelf space in the big box stores.

Transitioning to a private company

I think one item that is for sure positive coming out of this event is that the combined company will operate as a private company. Cabela’s was publicly traded, but as part of the merger, Bass Pro will be taking Cabela’s private. In my opinion, that is a good thing.

The company and the consumer benefit from this. Running and managing a public company comes with a lot of stress and focus towards managing Wall Street’s expectations. Wall Street does not understand or care about hunting and fishing. They care about growth and margins. Short term decisions are often made by leadership in order to meet the quarterly numbers instead of focusing on what’s right for the company and the customers long term. Cabela’s returning to a privately run company I believe is a positive thing for us the hunter.

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