Bass Pro Shops Doubles as Tourist Attraction

Discussion
Oct 01, 2009
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Many retailers
talk about making the shopping experience more entertaining for consumers.
For Bass Pro Shops, fun doesn’t even begin to explain the experience
as the chain has grown into a major tourist attraction on its own.

The chain’s
stores in the U.S. and Canada, which are part museum,
aquarium, art gallery and conservation-education center in addition
to retail store, are expected to draw roughly 100 million visitors this
year. The company’s store in Springfield, Missouri, according to a USA
Today
report, is said to attract about four million
a year, a number equivalent to tourists visiting the arch in St.
Louis.

Bass Pro Shops
has not been immune to the recession or the competition. The company
has had to scale back new store openings but has not taken a route similar
to competitor Cabela’s and sought to reduce the footprint of its locations.
It has seen sales go to Wal-Mart, Dick’s Sporting Goods and others that
put less emphasis on showmanship and more on price.

Discussion Questions:
What lessons can other merchants learn from Bass Pro Shops? Will the
chain be able to continue to maintain its theatrical spirit in light
of the price competition in the market?

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21 Comments on "Bass Pro Shops Doubles as Tourist Attraction"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

There are many reasons they received the NRF award for outstanding retailer recently. They have captured the essence of window shopping like that opening scene of the classic, “A Christmas Story” and broadened the Red Rider Rifle excitement to all things outdoors. The analytical shoppers go to REI, the rest want to feel the experiences of BPS. Lessons for other retailers? It isn’t the merch on sale but the ‘how you feel’ while browsing.

David Biernbaum
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Bass Pro Shops has indeed been enormously successful in creating a shopping experience that makes it so clearly different than any other retailer in the channel.

What can other retailers learn from this?

Every retailer should try much harder to be “different” than others in the channel. Even an ordinary supermarket chain or chain drug store can do more to create its very own character, color, and shopping experience, than what most do at the present time.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
11 years 7 months ago
I think one major lesson to keep in mind is that not every retail venue can be entertainment. It’s great when it can be, and I think every retailer should look at each department in their stores with that in mind, but don’t force it if it doesn’t fit–stay true to your brand elements. Take Disney stores vs. The Children’s Place, a great comparison because TCP actually owned Disney stores for awhile. One should be theater/entertainment–Disney. And to some degree it is, but it leaves a lot on the table. It actually lacks a lot of the participatory or educational elements that Bass Pro has. Or that Apple has. Store as entertainment means that a consumer should be creating an experience there, not passively wandering through displays. Disney stores do not do that. But they set the expectation that you’re going to get that kind of experience, which is why I think I always leave there feeling vaguely disappointed. Children’s Place, on the other hand, sets no such expectations. They are all about the clothes,… Read more »
Kevin Graff
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Bass Pro Shops ‘owns’ the shopping experience, product assortment, and on many items, price in the consumers mind. Getting 3 out of the 4 foundations for retail competitiveness right (the 4th being convenience) is why they are so appealing to consumers. I’m not a hunter or fisherman, but I love spending time in their stores exploring.

What can other retailers learn from them? Lots, but perhaps most important of all is that the store can’t be just about the products you sell.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 7 months ago

Bass Pro is an experience. Is it enough to maintain sales though? I’m beginning to think that media is right and we are entering an era of frugality and practicality. If I can purchase a Browning Maxus for 50 bucks cheaper at Walmart, why wouldn’t I? Sure I don’t get friendly and informed service and a huge fish tank but I’m saving 50 bucks.

Basic example, but I believe I’m not Bass Pro’s customer. I recently visited the local Bass Pro in Vaughan before the summer and it would seem that their core customer are newbies looking to get completely outfitted for whatever adventure they want to undertake. I’m talking the whole package from the $5 fishing lure to the $20,000 Tracker boat. Unfortunately, that buying group is shrinking here in Canada (in spite of what the media is reporting about our economy). For me, Bass Pro is a great diversion for when my daughter spends what I save at Walmart at Build-A-Bear.

Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
11 years 7 months ago

They have created an experience. BPS executes the experience very well; it’s part of the business plan. Other retailers have tried to create similar experiences but have failed over time because it’s only the marketing department’s responsibility and not a part of the culture (e.g. Lowe’s with How-To demonstrations, Dillard’s with fashion shows). I was discussing this with a young couple the other day and they stated that they went to Bass Pro Shops on their first date!
BPS has bridged the generations and has something for everyone. It’s an outing for the family! Congrats!

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Not every purchase decision is based on lowest price. Bass Pro Shops shows us that a retailer that makes the shopping experience fun and memorable can thrive and grow. By focusing on an entertaining atmosphere and a well-stocked store, BPS is a magnet for consumers and has become a destination. How many consumers have similar attitudes towards other retailers they visit?

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
11 years 7 months ago

I had the opportunity to visit “more than once” a Bass Pro Shop while vacationing with my family in Hershey, PA. Our hotel was next to the Bass Pro Shop and each night after returning from a great day at the park we continued the fun by walking over to the store. My children enjoyed exploring the store, including the shooting range, huge aquarium, feeding the fish in the outdoor pond, and all the great boats and equipment on display.

And yes, each night we visited we left with an additional purchase.

Cabela’s has the same attraction and for some retail stores this “Shoppertainment” really works. They turn shopping into an experience and a destination for not just shopping, but fun.

Retailers that can create additional reasons to generate visits will benefit. As with anything, half-hearted attempts won’t generate the results you were hoping for and in fact, could end up causing more harm than good.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Retail is “theater,” whether the performance is based on price, showmanship, location of the box, service points, etc. Sometimes we pay for the “theater seats” at Broadway prices, sometimes Off Broadway, and sometimes it’s summer stock.

An advertising industry legend, Rosser Reeves, called out the importance of having a “Unique Selling Proposition” (USP) back in the ’40s and ’50s. From his advertising agency perch at Ted Bates & Company, he encouraged marketers to formulate and then communicate via messaging, merchandising, and execution to let the consumer participate in a unique proposition that guided them to switch to or remain loyal to their brand.

What Bass Pro Shops has done so effectively is clearly letting their customer base know about their USP. They have created a “theater” that permits them to charge moderately higher prices than some other retailers, and they have, excuse the poor pun, “happy campers/fisherman.”

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

Earlier this month, I posted a blog about what may be missing at retail after retailers successfully clear clutter, expand sight lines and selectively implement “experiential” elements that in the end make stores less exciting than a trip to many websites. I think that there are opportunities in the middle; that is, between the theatricality of Bass Pro Shops and the sanitized dullness that has become much of “the rest.”

Ben Ball
Guest
11 years 7 months ago
When consulting with manufacturers, we often find ourselves exhorting them to “understand the customer’s business model” when trying to gain a competitive advantage. The corollary for retailers is to understand the consumer’s relationship with the category. Anyone who participates in outdoor sports like camping, fishing or hunting will tell you that 90% of the total time engaged is spent planning, preparing and dreaming about the trip and 10% is spent actually engaged in the activity. This results in inordinately high amounts of catalog time, internet surfing and in-store browsing. Then you actually go hunting/fishing/camping and something (usually two or three things) invariably go wrong. So when you return home you immediately reengage in the quest to solve these vexing problems before your next trip. For example, you miss a duck. This is a crystal clear indication of the need for a new shotgun. Not many categories have this kind of compelling consumer interaction. At least not over a sustainable (read “lifetime”) period. Bass Pro, Cabela’s and to a lesser extent, Gander Mountain and Sportsman’s Warehouse… Read more »
Chuck Palmer
Guest
11 years 7 months ago
Bass Pro Shops is second to none on one particular thing. Authenticity. Back in the “retail-tainment” days when everyone was chasing after these grand-gesture stores (remember Incredible Universe? Best Buy got it right) I had the fortune to be part of the team that developed the Galyan’s (now part of Dick’s) prototype. Bass Pro Shops was one of the first places we went to learn. Unbelievable, but understandable when you put them in the context of what L.L.Bean and Lands’ End were back then. Authentic. Subsequently, I had the opportunity to develop and install a vendor shop for Rocky Shoes & Boots in Bass Pro Shops’ flagship store. Working with them was an incredible experience, mainly because they are their brand and live and breath the life. They are smart to not roll out more stores, but to keep their focus on the experience of their current stores and affect growth through catalogs, the web, and deeper relationships with their best customers. We all can learn from the activation of core values that BPS exhibits.
Mark Baum
Guest
Mark Baum
11 years 7 months ago

As my friend, Joe Pine, has said for years, consumers want a real shopping experience and they crave authenticity. You don’t have to be on the Bass Pro Circuit to appreciate the Bass Pro Shops experience.

And by the way, what lends itself more to an interactive and/or educational experience than grocery shopping? Food is tactile; preferences and knowledge vary greatly. You don’t have to turn grocery stores into museums or tourist attractions to make the in-store experience more interesting, educational, and yes, entertaining.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
11 years 7 months ago

I think retailers can learn that you can make your store more fun and interactive without having to spend much money. Many retailers have ways to be more interactive, the challenge is being more creative and having that be the focus rather than cost.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
11 years 7 months ago

There are causal bridges that drive sales. Entertainment and tourism are two examples. But don’t ever think they provide permission to charge more. Value still rules the day. You just have to define it on the customer’s terms.

Mark Price
Guest
Mark Price
11 years 7 months ago

Bass Pro Shops has a tremendous advantage that few other retailers share–they tie into a tremendous passion of their store associates and their customer base, and deliver it authentically. Retailers such as Best Buy also can tie to such passions, but many retailers must struggle to link their store to a passion.

When they can, the results are usually substantial. You may say that grocery is a category with little passion, but as a passionate cook, I would disagree. The grocer that speaks to my passion will receive more of my business, even on days when I am not feeling so passionate about the meal at hand. Seeking out the passion, whether for clothes, new books or home improvement, and finding a way to ignite it through a genuine store experience, is an opportunity that should not be ignored, no matter what the category.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
11 years 7 months ago
I agree with most of my colleagues here and with good reason. Bass Pro Shops rocks. From its humble beginnings with founder Jimmy Morris selling fishing tackle out of his parents’ garage to what it is today, Bass Pro has never lost sight of its essence–a fanatical love of all things “outdoors.” For fisherman and hunters alike, the store is more a shrine than a shop. Being an avid fly fisherman, I’ve spent my share of hours wandering through Bass Pro Shops with a catatonic smile on my face. However, even for the uninitiated, the store is still an awesome experience and while you may not go in an outdoors person, you may just come out being one. There are a lot of lessons for retailers here but I think a few key ones are: 1. Celebrate your category: Great retailing is a celebration. Whether it’s Victoria’s Secret and the celebration of sex appeal or American Girl and the celebration of childhood innocence, great stores articulate the deeper emotions and needs behind what they sell.… Read more »
Eliott Olson
Guest
Eliott Olson
11 years 7 months ago

Cabela’s, Bass Pro and Gander Mountain have taken the category killer concept and created a tourist attraction. Cabela’s and Bass Pro also have very strong catalog operations that both support and drive customers to the brick locations.

Its strength, which is its novelty, is also its weakness. While there is room for expansion there is not that much room because of the large trade areas needed and the attitude of some that they have been there done that, now I want convenience.

The hunting and fishing market is also shrinking. Their recognition is a little like being on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Richard Beal
Guest
Richard Beal
11 years 7 months ago
I regularly fish the Florida Flats and I am a Bass Pro junkie. The Bass Pro in Orlando is about 100 miles from my home and I make a trip every 3 months or so. I seldom ever check out for under $200 and usually substantially more. It is not that they are the cheapest, they are not, it is simply the fact they have it and I can find it. It is really neat to shop them for the latest and greatest. Their merchandising is excellent. Staff is helpful, though I seldom need them except on the latest in electronics. If any improvements are needed I would like to see a broader selection of fishing lures. Today, they are very, very deep but not too broad. As far as being a tourist attraction I’d much rather take out of town guests there than to Disney and the other Orlando “attractions.” I took a non-outdoorsy lady there who spent most of her time saying OMG and photographing the place for her sons. For those who’ve… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
11 years 7 months ago

Well one thing they got right was they built a “man-friendly” environment. I can’t tell you how many times I have been dragged out shopping by my wife and two girls. Most malls/venues couldn’t care less about providing something for a man to do while women shop.

We had a Bass Pro Shop move into space vacated by Parisian in a local mall. My kids now know that they can get me to that mall almost anytime they want to go. I won’t take them any where else either.

So Bass Pro Shops, this Bud Light is for you. Thanks for preserving the mental health of the male population.

Sandy Miller
Guest
Sandy Miller
11 years 7 months ago

What retailers can learn is that there must be a perceived value component even for the 20% who buy 80% of what Bass Pro Shops sells. One idea is they might consider an old-fashioned value aisle where they provide Walmart pricing.

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