There is more at stake than the jobs at Cabela’s, the future of Sidney, Nebraska is also at risk. Cabela’s, a specialty retailer of outdoor sports gear, was purchased by their largest competitor, Bass Pro Shops, for $5.5 BILLION and there are bound to be numerous layoffs as the company’s duplicative core functions are either eliminated or moved to Springfield, Missouri the home of Bass Pro Shops. The acquisition comes as no surprise and there were approximately 70 people laid off in March 2017. The most secure jobs are probably the lower-end retail employees who know the business and can keep the doors open. Both companies have a similar founding story and company culture. Unfortunately, we are seeing contractions in retail, especially in lifestyle merchandise. The company’s prime demographic is aging and the industry is being decimated by e-tailers without the heavy investment in brick, mortar, and employees.
While Bass Pro Shops is not a public company and is therefore immune from Wall Street-type pressures, it appears that the public Cabela’s was forced into the deal by hedge fund Elliott Management which held a significant stake in the company with options to buy even more equity. According to published reports, Elliot demanded restructuring, cost-cutting, and then finally suggested a sale. Then there was both public (outside agitators) and minority investor pressure on Cabela’s to eliminate its lucrative sales of high-power semi-automatic hunting weapons. All leading to this acquisition.
I had previously purchased a number of items from Cabela’s over the years and found the merchandise selection, quality, and customer service to be superb. Like Kerr’s Sporting Goods, the original Abercrombie and Fitch, L.L. Bean, Cabela’s will be missed.