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, 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, Nebraska, Dick ran a classified ad in the Casper, Wyoming, 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! 5 hand tied flies....25c 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.
In typical direct-mail style, each order was mailed out with a mimeographed catalogue 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 catalogue 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, Nebraska. Today, Cabela's main world headquarters building along Interstate 80 in Sidney encompasses more than 250,000 square feet
The foundation of the company is its world-famous catalogue business. The company produces nearly 100 different catalogues per year, including specialty books focusing on such outdoor pursuits as archery, fly-fishing and boating, as well as massive Spring and Fall Master catalogues. Internationally known as a source of affordable, high-quality outdoor equipment, Cabela's catalogs are shipped to all 50 states and 125 countries.
With its Internet department growing by leaps and bounds, Cabela's has seen tremendous online growth. Besides the thriving e-commerce side of www.cabelas.com, which went live in 1998, the website features a continuously updated content site, community pages, company information and much more.
Cabela's retail division operates overwhelmingly popular stores throughout the U.S. As much 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.
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. 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 award-winning television shows further enhance the company's brand image and provide the public with entertaining and educational ways to experience what Cabela's is about. These 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.
Yet another chapter in the company's history began June 25, 2004, when Cabela's (CAB) made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange. Investors eager to acquire a piece of the World's Foremost Outfitter drove the stock's value up 40% in the opening minutes of trading, making it one of the most successful Wall Street debuts in recent memory.
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. Other awards include: ShotBusiness magazine's Retailer of the Year; Sporting Goods Business magazine Specialty Retailer of the Year; BizRate.com Circle of Excellence Award for outstanding website performance over the holiday season.
In 2006 Cabela's website was ranked No. 1 in the outdoor retailer industry and the company was named Company of the Year in Sporting Classics magazine's prestigious Awards of Excellence. Dick, Mary and Jim Cabela are members of the Sporting Goods Industry Hall of Fame, and Dick Cabela is a member of the Direct Marketing Association Hall of Fame. Over the years Cabela's has received numerous recognitions for its work with conservation organizations. 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.
Showcasing thousands of products, including hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, boating and wildlife-watching gear, as well as outdoor clothing and outdoor-themed gifts and furnishings, Cabela's is famous for its strong brand and world-renowned reputation for delivering quality merchandise, value and legendary customer service.
In 2007 Cabela's purchased S.I.R. Sports Store as a launching pad for the company's planned expansion into Canada. The S.I.R. facilities acquired through the purchase became the headquarters for Cabela's Canadian operations. "We have a growing, tremendously loyal customer base in Canada," said Cabela's Chief Executive Officer Tommy Millner.
Today, Cabela's Canada serves over 250,000 customers across Canada and internationally through its Call Centre, Online and Retail divisions. To best serve these customers, Cabela's Canada has established a team that is experienced and aware of the requirements of the Canadian marketplace. The product assortment continues to be tailored to meet the needs of Canadians while satisfying some of its more unique requirements. Examples of this include dog sledding and related gear, a complete array of trapping products and a comprehensive assortment of extreme (let's call them “Canada-Ready”) cold-weather clothing and footwear products. Cabela's Canada also maintains separate and distinct relationships with many vendors world-wide. This allows it to obtain products and negotiate agreements and pricing that are often particularly beneficial for Canadian consumers. The smaller size of the Canadian organization combined with the backing of its larger US parent allows it to be agile yet also able to invest heavily in new trends, technology and opportunities as they arise - the best of both worlds! Ultimately, every decision made is balanced against the need to ensure customer service excellence.
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.
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