On Monday, the hunting and outdoor sports worlds lost one of its leading supporters when Richard Cabela, the co-founder of outdoor gear retailer Cabela’s, died at his home in Sidney, Nebraska at age 77.
In 1961, Richard, better known as Dick, along with his wife, Mary, and his brother, Jim, unintentionally started one of the most successful American businesses to date. After purchasing $45 worth of fly-fishing lures on a business trip to Chicago and realizing that the lures would not sell in his family’s furniture and home-goods store, Dick decided to sell the lures in a different manner – through the mail. Cabela’s first successful ad for selling the lures appeared in Sports Afield magazine and read: “FREE introductory offer!!! 5 popular Grade A hand-tied flies. Send 25c for postage and handling …”
While the Cabelas did not make any money off of this promotion, they did learn a successful and efficient business tactic. When orders for the lures came in, Mary took all of the names and addresses and wrote them down on recipe cards, creating a database of potential future customers. Using this crucial information obtained from his lure promotion, Dick Cabela would purchase more fishing gear and showcase it in a 3-page mimeographed catalog, which would then be mailed out to those who had placed an order for Cabela’s original ad.
This mail-order business quickly took off and led to the creation of Cabela’s catalog, which eventually evolved into the development of 50 retail stores across the United States and Canada. For the 2013 fiscal year, Cabela’s overall sales raked in $3.6 billion in revenue.
Cabela’s retailers have actually seen a rise in business over the last 4 years, mainly thanks to President Obama. Following Obama’s second election, many outdoor enthusiasts and gun-rights activists feared that the federal government would begin to take away gun rights. As a result, sales of guns and ammunition exploded in 2012. These sales would account for approximately 1/5 of Cabela’s $3.6 billion in revenue for 2013 and would help raise the value of Cabela’s market shares by 92 percent.
Aside from being a business mogul, Dick Cabela was also an avid hunter and gun-rights activist. In 2012, Cabela’s was honored by the NRA for being one of the first businesses to donate more than $1 million to the organization. When asked why he supported the NRA so fervently, Cabela would often reply, “Some of these countries have no freedom, and a lot of that comes down to the right to bear arms.”
Not only did Dick Cabela bear arms, he also used them with great alacrity. Cabela was a big-game hunter who built a 15,000 square foot trophy room in his house, showcasing taxidermied elephants, giraffes, and rhinoceroses. When he heard that Africa was going to outlaw the hunting of elephants, Cabela responded by stating, “I told Mary, we’d better go shoot an elephant before we can’t do it anymore.”
Dick Cabela is survived by his wife and 9 children, along with 2 sisters and 3 brothers.
Image via YouTube