Cabela’s brings the great outdoors to NWA

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 154 views 

ROGERS — Much like Ray Kinsella’s converted cornfields in the cult hit “Field of Dreams” – if you build it they will come.

Anglers, hunters, master marksmen and outdoor enthusiast alike will come in droves to see Northwest Arkansas biggest and most buzz worthy sporting goods store – Cabela’s – when the doors open to the public later this month.

At least that’s what city and chamber officials expect, along with other neighboring retailers.

“It is a place where folks can come out and spend some time with their families and really bring the outdoors inside,” said Lance Mosley, a Cabela’s employee of the last seven years. “I have worked at our store in Fort Worth and the best way to describe Cabela’s is that we are in the business of helping people make memories.”

It is the first Cabela’s to open in Arkansas, set in the heart of NWA’s most booming district (Pinnacle Hills), and the 39th store in the chain that started with one single shop in Chappell, Neb., circa 1961.

The Natural State seems to be a natural fit for the global outdoor outfitters, who have enough firepower on the shelves to make Elmer Fudd’s head spin.

“It isn’t uncommon for one of our customers to drive five or six hours to come and shop here and a large majority of that business is due to the people who work here. Our employees are knowledgeable and we feel like we give the customer a complete experience,” said Cabela’s Communications Specialist Wes Remmer. “We have a little bit of everything in this store. We like to offer our customer the chance to learn as much about the product and test it before they buy it. That is why we have a shooting range and a gun library.”

Guns, crossbows, fishing gear and camping gear fills the cavernous 100,000 square foot facility. But aside from an eye-popping amount of merchandise, what sets Cabela’s apart from everyone else is what isn’t on the shelves.

Cabela’s broke ground in March and is equipped with a boat shop, deli, coffee shop that sells homemade fudge, shooting range and two massive aquariums that feature over 15 species of cold and warm water fish.

“We are very excited about the location of this store and with all the other retail players in this area we just hope we can add to what is already a booming spot for business,” said Remmer.

He expects anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 customers on opening day.

The decor is fashioned to resemble the vast Arkansas forest, with life-size stuffed animals lurking on nearly every corner. An artificial mountain range at the back of the store is an instant eye-grabber, featuring big game animals of North America and running water steams.

“All of our stores are modeled a little differently and with this store we were particularly happy with the work done by our team of taxidermist,” said Remmer. “I can’t wait to see how the public reacts to this place when its opened. … I think it will be a great addition to Northwest Arkansas.”

Cabela’s has given the area more than just a place to shop, it has provided 224 full and part time jobs thus far – from construction to retail sales.

“The people working here are all passionate about the outdoors and about helping out wherever they can,” said Remmer. “Cabela’s is proud to be a part of this community and we are thrilled to be able to provide so many jobs in this area.”

He said more than 2,000 applications were received online.

Hunting and fishing licenses can be acquired in the store, and a wealth of knowledge on classic firearms can be found in the “Gun Library." The doors will officially open at 9 a.m. August 30.

Steve Cox, director of economic development at Rogers Chamber of Commerce, said getting Cabela’s to commit to a Rogers location was a three-year project between chamber and city officials, General Growth Properties and Hunt Ventures.

But now that it's a reality, Cox said the Cabela’s effect is already paying off before the store is officially opened.

“Once Cabela’s starting building, energy around Pinnacle Hills picked up and other retailers and restaurants have decided to come to Rogers as well,” Cox said,

He said Fresh Market and Houlihans both signed contracts after they heard Cabela’s was coming and have filled vacancies at Pinnacle Hills Promenade that had sat empty for two years or more.

“These retailers are brand new to Northwest Arkansas and wanted to be in Rogers near Cabela’s," Cox said.

Allison Dyer, director of the Rogers Visitors and Convention Bureau, said hotels in the area are already planning to be busier this fall as they are getting calls from out-of-towners planning to stay over night and shop Cabela’s when they come in for Razorback games and make the trip to see Crystal Bridges.

“We don’t know exactly how to quantify the Cabela’s effect, but we know it’s another great attraction to draw folks to Northwest Arkansas,” Dyer said.

Cabela’s continues to post strong corporate earnings amid a somewhat tepid retail climate. Last month the outdoor specialty chain reported a 56% jump in second-quarter earnings on steady sales from retail and direct marketing.

Cabela’s earned $33.9 million in net income, or 47 cents per share. That's up from $21.7 million, or 31 cents per share in the prior year. Revenue rose nearly 12%, to total $627.3 million in the quarter ending June 30. CEO Tommy Millner said during the July earnings call that retail revenue growth was particularly encouraging and sales at comparable stores increased 4.7% from the prior year.

Millner’s optimism about the balance of 2012 and 2013, have the company accelerating its retail store expansion plans. For the quarter, the average ticket increased 4% and overall transactions increased for the first time in five quarters.

In addition to strong comp store sales, Millner said the company also realized strong performance from its new stores.

“For the quarter, sales per foot in the six new stores not in the comp base was meaningfully higher than our legacy store base. This is extremely encouraging as we continue to accelerate retail store expansion,” Millner said.