Outdoor gear retailer Bass Pro Shops has a deal to buy rival Cabela’s for $5.5 billion, but it’s not immediately clear what the impact will be on Northwest Indiana.

Bass Pro has an 135,000-square-foot superstore in Portage, while Cabela’s has an 185,000-square-foot superstore about 18 miles away in Hammond.

Both stores are similar with nature murals, diorama, aquariums and museum-like taxidermy displays.

Bass Pro Shops will buy Cabela’s for $65.50 per share in cash in a deal that’s expected to close in the first half of next year, the companies jointly announced Monday. Cabela’s has 85 stores mostly out West, while Bass Pro has 99 stores, mostly in the East.

The companies said in a press release they had “highly complementary business philosophies, product offerings, expertise and geographic footprints of the two businesses.” Bass Pro indicated it would keep Cabela’s as a separate brand.

“Today’s announcement marks an exceptional opportunity to bring together three special companies with an abiding love for the outdoors and a passion for serving sportsmen and sportswomen,” said Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops. “We look forward to continuing to celebrate and grow the Cabela’s brand alongside Bass Pro Shops and White River as one unified outdoor family.”

Nebraska-based Cabela’s, which opened its Hammond store in 2007, has been looking for a buyer.

“Cabela’s is pleased to have found the ideal partner in Bass Pro Shops,” said Tommy Millner, Cabela’s chief executive officer. “Having undertaken a thorough strategic review, during which we assessed a wide variety of options to maximize value, the board unanimously concluded that this combination with Bass Pro Shops is the best path forward for Cabela’s, its shareholders, outfitters and customers. In addition to providing significant immediate value to our shareholders, this partnership provides a unique platform from which our brand will be extremely well positioned to continue to serve outdoor enthusiasts worldwide for generations to come.”

The Hammond Cabela’s at Interstate 94 and Indianapolis Boulevard was named the chain’s top location for sales in 2010. It employed 220 workers at the time. The $60 million store, with a mountain covered with taxidermied wildlife at its center, triggered a significant amount of development in the area, including a super Walmart, an Aldi’s, a Planet Fitness and a Starbucks.

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The Portage Bass Pro Shop at Ind. 249 and Interstate 94 opened in 2007, drawing about 8,000 customers on its first day. It has employed as many as 400 workers.

Customers of both stores can continue to use their store credit cards, and their rewards points will be unaffected.

“It is business as usual at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s and there will be no immediate impact to our stores,” Bass Pro said in a FAQ on its website.

Indiana University Northwest Assistant Professor of Economics Micah Pollak said it was possible Bass Pro could eventually choose to close one of the two stores, given the close proximity. Both however are in prime spots just off Interstate 80/94, so another retailer would likely replace either quickly.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott said he was confident the Hammond Cabela’s would stay open, since it was once the retailer’s most profitable store.

“I’m not intimidated,” he said. “It’s a great, well-performing store. The boulevard is strong in that area. And it’s close to Chicago. Hammond always has that going for it.”

The Bass Pro in Portage has a lease through 2027 with a publically traded real estate investment trust, but Cabela’s owns the Hammond store, Latitude Commercial President Aaron McDermott said.

“While I think the Hammond site has the stronger demographics, mostly population density within a 15 minute drive time, the fact the two are so close together could put Hammond in jeopardy if sales weren’t all that strong there,” he said. “That doesn’t take into account any sort of financial agreement they might have with the city when they went there though. Then again the issue with those buildings is that they are so unique it would be very difficult to find a buyer or tenant to occupy the building if they were to close. It’s not your typical big box that you can split into multiple tenants or find another user.”


Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.