Showing posts with label outdoor retailing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label outdoor retailing. Show all posts

October 25, 2021

A Depressing Visit to the Cabela's Mothership

Entrance to the Cabela's store in Sidney, Nebraska.

I first visited Cabela's headquarters store in Sidney, Nebraska, when it was still in an old brick commercial building downtown. Having little money, I headed straight for the "bargain cave," the basement, where I bought a pair of shoe-pacs (leather tops, rubber bottoms) that lasted me for years. They were marked XXX inside the tongues — not for adult content, but because someone had ordered them by mail and then returned them.

Then the company built a new store out on Interstate 80, with parking for truckers and RV-ers. Stopping there on trips to the Black Hills or North Dakota became a regular thing — particularly on the way home, thinking "I really need a blaze orange cap with ear flaps for those cold windy North Dakota prairie days," or whatever.

It was that way last Saturday. My old waterfowling cap no longer fit me. I doubt that my skull had grown, so probably the cap had shrunk. So I went Valentine -> Hay Springs -> Alliance -> Sidney and pulled into the parking lot of the "mothership." Which was not very full. During hunting season.

I had last visited in 2018, about a year after Cabela's had merged with Bass Pro Shops.  Here's the corporate blather:

“We are excited to unite these iconic American brands to better serve our loyal customers and fellow outdoor enthusiasts,” Bass Pro founder and CEO Johnny Morris said. “As we move forward, we are committed to retaining everything customers love about both Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s by creating a ‘best-of-the-best’ experience that includes the superior products, outstanding customer service and exceptional value our customers have come to expect. We’re also deeply motivated by the potential to significantly advance key conservation initiatives.”

A marriage: Cabela's was more hunting than fishing, although they have lots of fishing gear. Bass Pro Shops was more about fishing. Cabela's codes "Northern," while Bass Pro Shops codes "Southern." The Cabela's snack display now includes Moon Pies next to the buffalo jerky. (I believe that a Moon Pie is considered "iconic" elsewhere; I have never eaten one.)

Oh yeah, the same holding company, Great American Outdoors Group, also owns Sportsman's Warehouse.

A year post-merger, the first thing I noticed in 2018 was that the Bargain Cave was gone. I had found some good deals there over the years, including a half-price set of luggage that I crammed into the Jeep circa 2012 and am still using,

Once it was the Bargain Cave; now it is the Camo Cave. If you think of camo
as a lifestyle statement, this is your destination. But no insulated billed caps.
I



But when I went to the Camo Cave last Saturday looking for a fall/winter camouflage cap with ear flaps, there was no such thing on sale. (My old cap carried the Cabela's logo. What happened to them? Not in the online catalog either.)

Meanwhile, the snack bar was closed and dark. I told M. about that when I came home that night, and she said, "The amenities are the first to go." 

Yep. Downward spiral.

The merger, pushed by a hedge fund that owned a sizeable share of Cabela's, was a gut punch to the little town of Sidney. The corporate headquarters had employed about 2,000 people, plus there were spin-off businesses such as Cabela's bank, which issued their affinity-group credit card, a travel agency for hunting trips, and so on.

In 2018, the ax fell. According to the Sidney Sun-Telegraph

"What's going to happen on the hill" has been the question many have tried to guess as they hope for their future in Sidney.

That question was answered late last week when those employed at Cabela's headquarters received letters outlining a severance package for those voluntarily leaving the company. It is believed that the letters were sent to the majority, if not all, of those employed at Cabela's corporate headquarters.

That was confirmed Tuesday by Bass Pro spokesman Jack Wlezien, who said that while there might be some exceptions due to individual circumstances, "for the most part, everyone got one."

Bass Pro Shops is headquartered in Springfield, Mo., and most of the jobs went there. Fox News' Tucker Carlson reported in December 2019,

One former [Sidney] employee, speaking on condition of anonymity due to fear of retribution, said, “I cried the second I got the phone call. I couldn't help it. I bawled.”

[Mayor Roger] Galloway noted that “Cabela’s was the keystone employer in town. Everything, not everything, but most things revolved around that" . . . .

City official Melissa Norgard told Tucker Carlson Tonight, “We were going to build a new housing subdivision to meet housing needs . . .  instead, we are working our tails off to try to figure out a way to survive.”

Tucker Carlson Tonight found the proposed subdivision.  It’s full of empty lots. The houses were never built.

Local residents told Tucker Carlson Tonight that it’s hard for them to leave the town as housing values have collapsed.

I just felt that the mood in the store was depressed, and the employees fewer and less well-informed. I had one particular hunting item in mind to buy, and after a bum steer from clerk #1, it took three more sales clerks to help me find it. 

The selection in 12 ga. steel shotgun shells was #2 or nothing — but that could be part of the Great Ammo Shortage, I don't know.

The whole place just felt . . . diminished.

So much for the mothership.

January 01, 2021

Blog Stew — Best Eaten in Your Sleeping Bag

 



• Now it will be CabelasBassProShopsSportsmansWarehouse.  There is an interesting angle as to what happens to the Remington firearms brand in this merger. Maybe it becomes a sort of house brand?

An obviously incomplete "history of sleeping bags." But check out the two men repairing their reindeer skin (?) bags. Those are Teddy Evans and Tom Crean, members  of Robert Scott's last expedition to the South Pole. They survived because they were cut from the final group that "dashed" for the Pole.

• There is a new herd of genetically pure (more or less) bison in Bent County, part of Colorado State University's research herd. The site is the 25,000-acre Heartland Ranch Nature Preserve.

November 16, 2019

Ma Boyle's Amazing Outdoor Retailing Concept

Gert Boyle (Outside).
Reading a post in Outside online about Gert Boyle, who built Columbia Sportswear from a little hat company to what it is today — and who passed away November 3 at the age of 95, still involved with the business — I came across this observation from a competitor:
“She and [her son] Tim did something no one else was even trying,” says Jim Thomsen, co-founder of outdoor brand Wilderness Experience. “All the other real outdoor companies, including mine, looked at ourselves as so cool, making products for the elite. And we sold them only to the coolest stores. Then along came Gert and Tim and they made really good products, but they did something none of the rest of us would ever think of doing . . .  they sold products to sporting goods stores, those non-cool places that sold to people who didn’t even know how to climb. And they started selling a lot.”
Selling to the non-elite outdoors person. Not being a prisoner of "coolness." What a concept.

One of Columbia's first new products when they branched out was a fishing vest that Gert designed. Probably worth a bit if you have one, which I do not, but I like my Columbia upland hunting vest.

November 12, 2019

Should I Throw Away this Water Bottle?


If you buy something from Backcountry.com,
you get a mountain goat sticker with your order. 
You may have seen these on gear like 
my water bottle, on car windows, etc.

If I had a retail company called "Mountain Sports, Inc.," and someone else made skis, let's say, under the trademark "Mountain High," could I sue them for infringing on my right to the word "Mountain"? Seems ridiculous, right?

Using that strategy, big Utah-based mail-order retailer Backcountry.com has been threatening dozens of smaller businesses and forcing them to change their names or be ground into the courtroom carpet.

"Backcountry Denim" got the letter threatening a lawsuit. So did the "Backcountry Babes" avalanche-safety clinic and the maker of the Marquette Backcountry Ski, among many others.

Not surprisingly, a lot of outdoor types who cherish those little gear companies have been angry with Backcountry.com, which while it was started by mountaineers, is now owned by TSG Consumer Partners. The "Boycott BackcountryDOTcom" Facebook group has more than 21,000 members.

Faced with the backlash, the company is backing down, kind-of sort-of, the Colorado Sun news service reports:
Backcountry.com CEO Jonathan Nielsen wrote in an open letter that the retailer’s attempts to protect its brand “were not consistent with our values.” Not everyone is buying it. . . .
Nielsen said the federal lawsuits filed this year against the nonprofit avalanche education provider Backcountry Babes, the one-employee Backcountry Denim Co., Utah’s Backcountry eBikes and Marquette Backcountry Ski were “a last resort” that followed attempts to resolve the trademark disputes “amicably and respectfully.”
So do I believe that corporate-speak, or do I peel their goat off my water bottle? Their website under "Our Values" lists "Take ownership." Yeah, like they own the word "Backcountry"?
David Ollila, who founded Marquette Backcountry Ski in 2010 and trademarked the name in 2013, laughed at the notion that the company’s initial petitions for cancellation of his trademark, filed through the U.S. Patent and Trade Office, were respectful. 

He points to emails the company’s trademark lawyers with the IPLA law firm sent to business owners like Boulder’s Jenny Verrochi, who was bullied into abandoning her registered trademark for Backcountry Nitro coffee and ended up rebranding her canned cold brew as Wild Barn Coffee.
The law firm that was in charge of bullying smaller companies has been fired, but what could is that to people who had to spend money changing their trademarks and losing name recognition?

I would say, do your holiday outdoor-gear shopping elsewhere until we see how this shakes out.

UPDATE: The hashtag is #scrapethegoat