CABELA'S: TARGETING THE RURAL LIFESTYLERS NETS GROWTH SINCE 1961
by David Draper, Cabela's Inc.
Few, if any, businesses today survive the kitchen-table dreams of their founders, especially in the outdoor industry where businesses come and go with the changing seasons. Yet, the leader in the outdoor equipment business has done just that — survived, grown and prospered from simple beginnings to become the largest mail order, retail and Internet outdoor outfitter in the world.
Cabela's (CAB), the "World's Foremost Outfitter" of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, was born somewhat inadvertently in 1961 when Dick Cabela came up with a plan to sell fishing flies he purchased while at a furniture show in Chicago. Upon returning home to Chappell, NE, Dick ran a classified ad in the Casper, WY, newspaper reading: "12 hand-tied flies for $1." It generated one response.
Undaunted, Dick formulated a new plan, rewriting the ad to read "FREE Introductory offer! Five
hand tied Flies. ... 25¢ Postage. ... Handling" and placing it in national outdoor magazines. It didn't take long for the orders to begin arriving from sportsmen and women around the country.
THE KITCHEN TABLE
In typical direct-mail style, each order was mailed out with a mimeographed catalog of outdoor items Dick and his wife, Mary, added to their product line. In the beginning, Dick and Mary ran the business from the kitchen table of their home in Chappell.
Initially, Dick and Mary were able to handle the growing business with the help of temporary typists hired for mail, label and catalog preparation. However, by the fall of 1962, they realized the demands of their new venture needed full-time attention. Dick urged his younger brother, Jim, to join the new company, which he did in 1963. Neither Dick, Mary nor Jim took any salary from the company in those early years. Instead, they invested in more mailings, new equipment and bigger facilities.
By 1964, continued success and growth demanded a bigger and better location. The operation was moved from their kitchen table to the basement of Dick and Jim's father's furniture store and then on to various buildings in Chappell. In 1969, Cabela's was operating in a 50,000 square-foot vacant John Deere building in neighboring downtown Sidney, NE.
Nearly 30 years later, in January 1998, employees moved out of the original Sidney headquarters building into a new 120,000-square-foot world headquarters. The two-story building, which is large enough to fit a football field on each floor, houses offices for nearly 500 employees. But even that facility was quickly outgrown. To accommodate the increased growth in all areas of the company, construction of a new, state-of-the-art addition more than doubling the size of the world-headquarters building was completed in the summer of 2002.
The foundation of the company is its world-famous catalog business. The company produces more than 70 different catalogs yearly, including specialty books focusing on such outdoor pursuits as archery, fly-fishing and boating, as well as massive 500-plus page Spring and Fall Master catalogs. Internationally known as a source of affordable, high-quality outdoor equipment, Cabela's catalogs are shipped to all 50 states and 125 countries. More than 120 million catalogs are mailed each year with demand continuing to grow.
Cabela's retail division operates overwhelmingly popular stores throughout the U.S., as many wildlife museums and education centers as retail stores, Cabela's showrooms provide a truly unique shopping experience. True destination stores, Cabela's showrooms offer outdoor enthusiasts and their family an educational and entertaining shopping experience.
After years of offering the best equipment and clothing to their customers, Cabela's expanded their horizons by researching and recommending the best outdoor outfitters. In 1985, Cabela's Outdoor Adventures was born and has grown steadily to become the World's Foremost Hunting and Fishing Consulting Agency. Voted Best Hunting Outfitter in the Robb Report's "Best of the Best in 1999," Outdoor Adventures works hard to help customers book worldwide hunting and fishing trips of a lifetime.
With its Internet department growing by leaps and bounds, Cabela's has seen sudden growth in
a new frontier. Besides the thriving e-commerce side of www.cabelas.com, which went live in 1998, the Web site features a continuously updated content site, community pages, company information and catalog requests. Visitors to the site can also sign up for The Cabela's Connection e-mail newsletter, informing them of new products, special offers and general outdoor news.
To provide support for their co-branded credit card, which was started in 1995, Cabela's chartered the World's Foremost Bank, N.A., in 2001. Headquartered in Sidney with operations in Lincoln, NE, the bank provides customer service, risk management and payment processing exclusively for Cabela's Visa cardholders. The Cabela's Visa card allows consumers to earn points back from all their purchases, which they can apply toward their next purchase at Cabela's.
Cabela's Outfitter Journal magazine and television show, and the popular "Memories in the Field" television show further enhance the company's brand image and provide the public with two entertaining and educational ways to experience what Cabela's is about. Both media outlets provide sportsmen and women the opportunity to learn what the outdoors has to offer through top-quality production and informative features from the nation's most knowledgeable outdoor journalists and personalities.
Cabela's success hasn't gone unrecognized, as evidenced by the number of commendations and awards bestowed upon the company in recent years. In 2001, the Cabela's Catalog was ranked as the fifth most popular catalog, behind such direct-mail giants as J.C. Penney and Sears, in a consumer shopping survey administered by Catalog Age magazine. Recent awards include: ShotBusiness magazine's 2002 Retailer of the Year; Sporting Goods Business magazine's 2002 Specialty Retailer of the Year and BizRate.com's 2001 Circle of Excellence Award for outstanding Web site performance over the holiday season. In addition, Cabela's employees were instrumental in naming the company one of the Top 100 Companies to Work For in Forbes magazine's January 2000 issue.
Cabela's Corporate Outfitter, the company's fast-growing business-to-business division, has focused on serving the needs of its corporate customers, assisting with incentive programs, employee rewards, sales promotions or company branding efforts.
AG MARKET SPECIALIST
Recognizing the customer crossover, the Corporate Outfitter program has placed a special emphasis on marketing to the agricultural field. It's not a far stretch to say a majority of farmers and ranchers are either loyal Cabela's customers or are at least familiar with the quality and service behind the Cabela's name. By catering to companies whose customer is the farmer or rancher, Cabela's Corporate Outfitter division adds value through the brand loyalty of the Cabela's name.
"I feel Cabela's Corporate Outfitters offers a real advantage to agricultural businesses trying to brand themselves in this competitive market," said Preston Shaw, Brand Development Sales Specialist for Cabela's. "The Cabela's name is well known in the industry, and we offer the products and services farmers and ranchers want and need."
Cabela's customizes programs around the needs of the companies they work with by identifying the company's goal and finding solutions. Whether you're driving sales, building brand recognition, or developing a promotion or incentive program, Cabela's Corporate Outfitters provides a solution. A key to Cabela's success is its flexibility. The last thing an agribusiness needs is more complexity and work when it comes to growing their business.
Despite the accolades and growth, Cabela's continues to embrace the original philosophy that the customer is No. 1 — a philosophy instilled by company founders Jim and Dick Cabela. This dedication to the customer is just one of many reasons Cabela's is what the family always knew it could be — a dream come true.