Store of the Week: Bass Pro Shops

There are many reasons why I love Bass Pro Shops. One of the main ones is that it is my principle outfitters, supplying a range of clothing that is ideal for a tubby, middle-aged yokel who also happens to attend many country music events. Another reason is that most of its stores have very good restaurants which do a fine line in burgers, catfish and alligator.

Perhaps the biggest reason is that Bass Pro is the best example in the world of a retailer that genuinely embodies a lot of the buzzword phrases that many other businesses throw around like slightly unconvincing confetti: ‘retailtainment’ and ‘experiential retail’ are the two that spring to mind.

Despite its humble and unassuming background (founder Johnny Morris opened an 8 sq. ft.  fishing supplies area in the back of his dad’s liquor store in Springfield, MO in 1972), Bass Pro has grown into a very substantial business, trading through over 80 stores across the USA and Canada as well as a overseeing a thriving e-commerce business. Bolstered by its September 2017 $4bn merger with rival retailer Cabela’s, it has become something of a powerhouse in the outdoor pursuits market.

I’ve probably been to about a dozen Bass Pro stores over the years, and my most recent encounter was at Portage, IN. Like most outlets, the store front is an enticing affair in terms of architecture and decoration and the array of boats and outdoor vehicles outside the store is always a joy to behold. Stores tend to follow a similar footprint: a large ground floor complete with restaurant, and then a sizeable balcony-style mezzanine that affords shoppers great views – not just of the merchandise below, but also of the waterfall that tumbles down into the fishpond below.

The store’s décor is beyond amazing. The use of stuffed wild animals is potentially not to everyone’s tastes, but it complements the extensive deployment of water, timber, natural light, artwork and rock to create a real outdoorsy vibe. I’m beginning to suspect that being a shopfitter for this retailer would be an awesome job.

Fishponds; catch & release pools where youngsters can try their hand at angling; archery and rifle ranges; bowling alleys; the list goes on. All can be filed under ‘reasons to visit’ and ‘reasons to stay’. From memory, the average dwell time at Bass Pro is in excess of 90 minutes, compared to under 30 minutes for a massive Walmart.

I’m the first to admit that a lot of the Bass Pro range is not for me, not to mention that I’d struggle to get a lot of the hunting and fishing gear back through customs. However, I’d be the first to acknowledge that if you were in the market for a new crossbow, gun or similar, Bass Pro would be a logical destination such is the strength in depth of its range. ‘Authority’ is another word that gets bandied around in retail, but Bass Pro genuinely has it in spades across diverse categories such as angling, camping, boating and outdoor apparel.

Customer service is always first rate at Bass Pro. A friendly welcome is assured and help is always forthcoming if it is required. I’ve often had random 15-minute chats with colleagues – not an occurrence that has happened in that many other retailers that I can think of. Just one more reason why Bass Pro really is an exemplary retailer.

With an utterly absorbing store environment, excellent instore dining and a compelling mix of brands and private label, this proposition is superb. Retailers who need inspiring practical examples of how to generate traffic, dwell time and brand advocacy really could do a lot worse than look at Bass Pro. World class.

Bryan Roberts, Global Insight Director

similar articles