Regular readers of the Soap Queen may have caught my paean to Cabela’s, the new 185,000 square foot wonderstore that just opened in Lacey, Washington.
Despite it being opening weekend, I dragged my entire family to the hunting, boating, fishing outdoor mecca. It was everything promised and more. There really is a huge aquarium stocked with trophy sized fish, and dead animals all over the store (including an elephant and a walrus) and lines out the door for their elk burgers in the cafeteria.
Lessons I learned:
1. Know Your Market: I haven’t seen so much camouflage in one place in my entire life. And the camouflage wasn’t on the rack – it was on customers wandering the store. If the customers hadn’t been moving, they would have blended into the background.
Washington state, especially in the Lewis County area, is well known for its hunting and fishing enthusiasts. Cabelas opened close enough to Lewis County and Seattle to draw from both areas.
2. Sell the experience: The average Cabelas customer spends 3.5 hours in the store because it’s such a Disneyland-like extravagance of natural wildlife displays, live fish and examples of merchandise put out to play with. They even have a fake hunting range in the back to try target practices at. Along with their elk burger cafeteria, you could take the entire family and hang out all day. Cabela’s doesn’t share numbers but the assumption is that not only do these customers buy while they are in the store but they are loyal to Cabelas and buy their bigger ticket items ($51,000 boat anyone?) there as well.
3. Partnering is just fine: Driving up to Cabela’s, there are flags thanking different vendors for making Cabela’s what it is. Similar to a small town using light pole flags to draw attention to going’s on in the town, Cabela’s uses them to highlight their trusted important vendors. When we were there, Cabela’s was allowing Gore-Tex, the NRA and wildlife education outfits to have booths and tables in their area. “If it enhances the customer experience,” Cabela’s seems to be saying, “it doesn’t need to be entirely owned by us. Just come in and help our customers have a great experience.” It’s a win-win for the merchant and for Cabela’s. The customer won’t differentiate between a straight Cabela’s experience and a slightly hybrid one – they’ll just talk about what a great time they had.
Ultimately, all the dead animals proved a wee bit overwhelming for me and I left without buying anything but any time I need a great duck blind, hunting rifle and scope – you can bet Cabela’s will be the first place I go.