Photo by David J. Sams, Lone Star Outdoor News
By Jim Shepard, The Outdoor Wire
With Monday’s announcement that the Cabela’s acquisition by Bass Pro Shops was finally a done deal, business types have largely moved toward the next item on the standard list of acquisition questions: how long before the (inevitable) changes start to happen?
After all, it’s unlikely that a businessman like Johnny Morris is going to maintain two of anything unnecessarily, and the two companies do have a lot of inevitable overlap, especially when it comes to the back office areas like administration, accounting, and management.
The answer to that question isn’t one you’ll find here today, although I’m as curious as the next person. With a reputation for being a tough-minded businessman, no one I’ve spoken with about the deal has much doubt that there are changes coming -and they’ll decidedly impact Cabela’s more than Bass Pro Shops.
After all, someone pointed out, Morris has just opened the equivalent of the outdoor Disney World adjacent to his original Bass Pro Shop in Missouri. It’s not likely either will be relocating to Nebraska.
But we’ve been so busy looking at the scale of this deal that we’ve overlooked the people who will decide if the acquisition succeeds or not: the customers.
Fortunately, both companies are far better at customer service that those of us who sit and watch from the sideline.
Shortly after word was released to the media that the deal had been consummated, answers to the kinds of questions customers would ask popped up on both companies’ websites.
They offer more insight into what’s in the future than any release. That’s why they’re called “Frequently Asked Questions” right?
Anyway…the first question is the one the company hopes everyone asks: “What are the customer benefits of uniting these two companies?”
And the answer reads like a conversation with Morris himself: It’s “an opportunity to create a ‘best of the best’ shopping experience for all outdoor enthusiasts worldwide for generations to come.”
Sounds a bit high-minded, but everyone laughed a decade ago when Morris first started talking up his Wonders of Wildlife idea. No one’s laughing today.
Operationally, the FAQs do indicate BPS and Cabela’s will continue independent companies in the near term.
But there are some immediate consumer benefits, like the ability to exchange gift cards on a dollar-for-dollar basis between the two. If you have a BPS gift card burning a hole in your pocket and there’s a Cabela’s nearby, you’ll be able to visit the customer service counter and exchange it for a Cabela’s card. You can also call either company’s online customer service centers (BPS is 800-211-6440, Cabela’s is 800-237-4444) to make the exchange.
The FAQs say, they’re “working to improve this process moving forward.” That meaning’s clear: one day you’ll see a card that works in either (or both) locations. That’s a win for consumers- and a benefit other retailers don’t currently offer.
“Moving forward” is a phrase that appears frequently in the answers to many of those frequently asked questions, especially when it comes to the two group’s customer reward programs.
As it stands today, everything at both stores will continue to operate normally for the time being.”Moving forward” may mean changes- or not.
Customers at both stores will retain their current Outdoor Rewards (BPS) or CLUB (Cabela’s) points, although there will be no new credit cards issued “at this time.”
If you have either of their affinity credit cards, you won’t be able to pay Cabela’s credit card balances at BPS or vice versa. But it’s one of those things they’re “looking to change moving forward.”
As far as products, the company (companies?) say the product mixes will remain the same at this point. For consumers, that means they’ll still be able to buy each company’s branded merchandise, along with other brand-names they’re accustomed to seeing.
One significant change will be a customer’s ability to return products to either store – or by calling customer service at the numbers given earlier. Since the companies don’t currently have access to each others’ respective inventories, this looks like a potential logistical problem, but the FAQs indicate this will be improved “in the near future.”
Lifetime warranty policies at both entities remain intact with one change: now customers can make those lifetime warranty claims at either location for “refunds or exchanges for a comparable item.”
And Cabela’s will also continue trade/buy used firearms -something that’s never been an option at Bass Pro Shops. The heavier emphasis on firearms at Cabela’s has been one area where consumers and firearms and accessories manufacturers have expressed concern.
Services, including “wish lists” will continue, but you won’t be able to buy online and have your products from BPS/Cabela’s shipped to a location of the other store-at least not yet.
Not surprisingly, the round-up programs for conservation will remain intact at both locations.
Finally, the companies say there are no plans to stop mailing catalogs.
Lots of questions remain, but like the answers to the FAQs, they’ll have to come from the companies themselves, despite all our collective observations and estimations.