The two outdoor gear retail chains combined posted an Internet Retailer-estimated $1.104 billion in online sales in 2015. Privately held Bass Pro, No. 109 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, grew its online sales by 1% year over year to an Internet Retailer-estimated $328.8 million, up from $325.5 million in 2014. Cabela’s (No. 61), meanwhile, posted an Internet Retailer-estimated $774.8 million in online sales last year, up 3.3% from $750.0 million last year. Earlier this year, Cabela’s promoted its head of e-commerce Scott Williams to president.
Bass Pro founder and CEO Johnny Morris will be head of the combined companies.
“A driving force behind this agreement is the highly complementary business philosophies, product offerings, expertise and geographic footprints of the two businesses,” Bass Pro said in announcing the acquisition. Cabela’s operates its e-commerce platform on Oracle’s Micros while Bass Pro operates its e-commerce platform on IBM.
“We have enormous admiration for Cabela’s, its founders and outfitters, and its loyal base of customers,” Morris said. “We look forward to continuing to celebrate and grow the Cabela’s brand alongside Bass Pro Shops and [Bass-owned fishing boat dealer] White River as one unified outdoor family.”
The deal comes nearly a year after activist investor Elliott Associates began pushing Cabela’s to consider a sale. The chain, which had built a following among hunters and outdoor enthusiasts, came under pressure after revenue and profit growth slowed.
Cabela’s, founded by brothers Richard and Jim Cabela in 1961, said in October of last year that “significant weakness” in its fall apparel and footwear contributed to a disappointing third quarter. Less than a week later, Elliott disclosed an 11% stake and said it would push for a shake-up. The company began a strategic review of its business in December.
In winning the bidding for Cabela’s, Bass Pro beat out competition from private equity bidder Sycamore Partners, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
Sporting goods is one of the faster growing retail categories in the U.S. Total sales—online and offline—last year reached $46.50 billion, up 6.0% from a $43.85 billion, according to an Internet Retailer analysis of retail sales data from the U.S. Commerce Department. That’s behind only the flowers and gifts category, which grew 9.3% last year and the toys and hobbies category, which grew 7.8%.
Like nearly all other products, however, online sales of sporting goods are growing much faster than sales in stores. The 28 sporting goods merchants ranked in the Top 500 Guide—with Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and REI at the top, collectively increased online sales 13.2% last year to $4.61 billion from $4.08 billion in 2014. Those 28 merchants account for 9.9% of total spending on sporting goods last year, up from 9.3% in 2014.
Bloomberg News contributedFavorite