In Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal you can read about the Bass Pro Shops deal to acquire Cabela’s for about $4.5 billion in cash. This would united two of the biggest sellers of outdoor-sports gear. It stuck me that both of these started out as small family businesses. Bass Pro Shops started in 1972 when John Morris operated as a catalog retailer out of the back of his father’s liquor store in Springfield, Mo. Cabela’s started as a family run catalog in Chappell, Neb. Cabela’s originally started out in rural areas, with its stores serving as gathering places with wildlife museums and aquariums to support its catalog efforts. In Michigan, the Cabela’s store was once the state’s largest tourist attraction drawing more than 6 million visitors a year. Bass Pro Shops also built superstores – with its Springfield flagship store’s NRA museum, a 1.3 million gallon aquarium and 4 million tourists a year.
But my attention was also drawn to the part where the article discusses how Cabela’s once was the source of high end hunting gear and innovative items – but as it ramped up its store count, its offerings evolved to serve a mass market. Now a small collection of specialty retailers have started selling the types of innovative, high-end gear that Cabela’s built its business on. Jason Hairston, a former Cabela’s customer started Kuiu in 2011 and did $2 million in sales its first year. Reminds me of the types of changes in our industry with the mergers and failures of the “big three” opening up the market for high quality, customer service focused family businesses to survive in spite of difficult economic times. We can find ways to prosper and grow our businesses by serving the FI industry in a innovative and high-end way.