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Cabela’s Super Stores

David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Brad Paisley, March/April 2012

Men are hardwired to detest shopping, and it’s hardly a stretch to say that some would do just about anything to avoid a trip to the local mall. But when the shopping trip is to a Cabela’s superstore, they’ll be the first in the car and ready to go.

Cabela’s, that 50-year-old outfitter headquartered in Sidney, Nebraska, has 34 stores throughout the United States and Canada, with another five coming this year. To call them extreme would be an extreme understatement. Each store brings elements of the great outdoors inside. Grand tanks showcase the type of sporting fish found in local waters, mounted game animals are on display, most have restaurants (with menus featuring game meats), and many have literally acres of fishing, hunting, camping and outdoor gear.

The largest, in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, boasts a quarter of a million square feet of floor space. Millions visit each year. A person visiting could buy anything from a $5 Rapala fishing lure or a $7 bag of beef jerky to a $100 pair of Merrill shoes or even a $30,000 A&S Famars Italian over-under shotgun. Cabela’s is a $2-billion-a-year business, and the retail arm is now its fastest growing segment. The average time of a customer visit? Three hours.

Cabela’s began in 1961 when Dick Cabela placed an ad in a newspaper advertising trout flies at $1 a dozen. That ad begat a catalog company with such a strong following that customers were making pilgrimages to its headquarters in Sidney, Nebraska, to get closer to the company. The original store, a century-old building, just wouldn’t do anymore, so corporate brass opened its first mega-store in 1991.

The concept has flourished. “A single store can bring in millions of visitors,” says Joe Arteburn, spokesman for the company. “A lot of them turn out to be the top tourist attraction in the state.” The customer base is broad, and ranges from those with merely a passing interest in open-air recreation to hardcore outdoorsmen.

Cabela’s plans to keep expanding with five new stores for 2012. Visit cabelas.com

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