AVON, Ohio - Despite a year’s worth of rumors Cabela’s would be snatched up by the larger Bass Pro Shop, Ohio sportsmen have been excited about the new Cabela’s store opening here on Aug. 11.
Now that the $5.5 billion deal is done, anglers and hunters must be wondering what will become of the sparkling new 77,000 square foot facility. The early forecast is most or all of Cabela’s stores will remain open, but take a back seat to Bass Pro Shops, a southern giant expanding into Ohio in recent years.
Bass Pro Shops has 92 stores. Cabela’s count rose to 83 stores with the addition of the Northern Ohio outlet.
Cabela’s began in the northern states and is based in Sidney, Nebraska, focusing on such staples as walleye, muskie and smallmouth bass fishing. Bass Pro Shops is headquarters in Springfield, Missouri. Largemouth bass has long been its main game.
Both, however, have branched into boating, camping, firearms and most things outdoors. They have taken advantage of rocketing firearms sales over the past decade. The giants of the outdoors sports market, their constant expansion has been driving many small mom-and-pop bait and tackle shops out of business all the while.
While the little stores struggle to compete, the big box stores have greased the slide with cutthroat purchasing policies forced on major fishing and hunting tackle makers. It is the essence of the Walmart game plan, although Walmart generally fills its shelves with less expensive fishing tackle and hunting gear.
Cabela’s was created by Richard and Jim Cabela in 1961. The chain of stores went public in 2004.
Johnny Morris, a popular tournament bass angler, began selling lures, line, rods and reels out his father’s liquor store in Springfield in 1972. Still the sole owner of Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Marine, Morris purchased Ranger Boats and the Stratos and Triton boat brands from Platinum Equity two years ago. Morris is reportedly worth $3.3 billion.
The companies have substantially grown through catalog sales, but Bass Pro Shops did not acquire Cabela’s credit card portfolio. It was purchased by Capital One.
Bass Pro Shops purchase was provoked over the past year by Elliott Associates, Cabela’s largest stockholder, after sales had begun to slump and stock prices went down. The Bass Pro Shops offer of $65.50 a share was a 19 percent premium to Cabela’s most recent closing price, which had been on the rise because of speculation on the sale.