Though national chains and big box stores can take their toll on local businesses, the two major local sporting goods stores are not feeling threatened by the entrance of Cabela’s into the Flathead Valley retail scene.
Sportsman & Ski Haus president Dave Harvey even said his store has been moving so many guns that “we can stand to have business carved off a little. The thought of Cabela’s coming in and taking their fair share of hunting and fishing is not really frightening. It’s an area we can take a temporary hit on.”
Cabela’s announced on Sept. 27 that construction is slated to begin on a north Kalispell store in spring 2013, with the store opening in fall 2013.
Sportsman recently announced a major expansion for the same time period, with construction planned for spring 2013 on 25,000 square feet of empty land between its current Kalispell store and the Signature Theatres building.
The expanded Sportsman store will be 80,000 square feet, with 53,000 devoted to retail space.
The move had nothing to do with rumors of Cabela’s imminent arrival, Harvey said.
“Our store has way exceeded its expectations when we first built it,” he said. “We had no idea it would go off the charts the way it did.”
BJ Lupton, owner of Snappy Sport Senter in Evergreen, said the arrival of Cabela’s will be a motivation toward improving his own business.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to look at what we’re doing, how well we’re taking care of customers and examine everything we’re doing,” Lupton said. “It’s easy to reflect on happy comments from customers, but that’s not necessarily a way to get better. Self-congratulation doesn’t get us anywhere.”
The focus at Snappy Sport Senter, located at the corner of U.S. 2 and Montana 35, is similar to Cabela’s, since Snappy’s is loaded with hunting, fishing and camping merchandise. Snappy’s does have extensive lines of other merchandise, with casual clothing, boating gear, a basement full of athletic goods and a gallery of outdoor art.
Snappy’s, founded in 1947, is well away from the U.S. 93 commercial corridor, but Lupton said this has its advantages.
“We hear from customers all the time how they really dislike that traffic,” he said. “In many cases, people are very pleased to come here. But there still has to be a good reason to shop here. Easy parking and easy access are secondary to how well we take care of customers.”
Sportsman’s Kalispell location is just south of and across the highway from the planned site of Cabela’s in the Spring Prairie commercial development north of Lowe’s on U.S. 93.
Harvey said the presence of Cabela’s should help cement the Flathead Valley as a retail center, bringing in shoppers from Canada, for instance, who previously might have chosen to travel to the Post Falls, Idaho, area for the Cabela’s store there.
“All these businesses here will feed off each other,” he said. “Dad will want to check out Cabela’s while mom and the kids probably aren’t going to want to. They’ll want to come here and check out skateboards and fashion apparel, footwear, all that.
“We try to be on the cutting edge of the next cool thing, evolving with the valley’s appetite for outdoor gear.”
Cabela’s will only be competition for about a third of Sportsman’s stock, Harvey said. Sportsman carries outdoor gear and plans to expand those departments, but Sportsman also plans to devote more space to its athletic, exercise and footwear lines.
Another positive for Sportsman and independent sporting goods stores in general is that they are more likely to carry name-brand products, such as North Face, Patagonia and others, Harvey said. Cabela’s and other outdoor chains such as REI are relying increasingly on private label goods.
“As long as there is still an appetite for the branded product, that’s a niche where we won’t go head to head,” Harvey said. “Those brands are flocking to the independent stores like us, as we are a great place for them to showcase their products.”
Business reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4439 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.