It has just been announced to us, the lure- and arrow-buying public, that Bass Pro Shops is buying Cabela’s for $5.5 billion. This is staggering news. It’s like learning that Apple Pie has just acquired Mom.
We know that both companies are success stories of the kind that only happen here. Dick Cabela, along with his wife and brother, started selling fishing flies through the mail from his kitchen table in 1961. Johnny Morris started selling fishing tackle from 8 square feet of his father’s liquor store in 1971.
Both companies are now behemoths, each employing about 20,000 people and having close to 100 “destination” stores across the country. For years, I used to look forward to the annual catalogs of each company, which were the size of cinder blocks and afforded a year’s worth of entertainment whether you bought anything or not. Then the catalogs became thinner and more “vertical”—one for walleye fishing, one for crappies, one for elk, etc. Then they stopped coming at all unless you requested them online.
I once stood in a Cabela’s in Harrisburg, Pa., promoting my book, If You Didn’t Bring Jerky, What Did I Just Eat? They’d set me up next to a plastic bowling ball that made ice cream if you put it in the freezer. It was the same price as my book. The store sold a lot more bowling bowls than books that day.
Frankly, I don’t know what this means for us little guys. I suspect it ain’t good. We’ll hear a lot about increased efficiency and supply chains. I doubt we’ll hear anything about less competition.
But let’s look on the bright side. As Businessinsider.com puts it, “While the deals are good news for the firms involved, Wall Street is also making a killing off the mergers. Based on estimates from consulting firm Freeman & Co., the banks involved in the two deals stand to make as much as $95 million combined.” These include such outdoor-oriented institutions as JP Morgan, Guggenheim, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
In this dog-eat-dog world, it’s nice to see that somebody is looking out for the bankers.