Growing up in the Holiday Valley ski resort area of New York, Liza Barrett was attracted to the outdoors. Hiking and kayaking soon became her passions.
When the Barrett family traveled from New York to Florida to see relatives, their trip included a 30- to 45-minute excursion in Pennsylvania, to stop at the Cabela’s in Hamburg.
Walking into the store, Barrett remembers being overwhelmed at its size and and its inventory. The side trip could easily consume an hour or more of the family’s time.
Barrett hopes those coming to the new Cabela’s in the Fort Mill area, adjacent to Carowinds amusement park, have the same experience. Barrett is the marketing manager for the new store, which was once the site of the Plaza Fiesta shopping mall.
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Cabela’s demolished Plaza Fiesta and the walls of the new store rose quickly. Barrett has been at the store since it was just bare concrete walls. Now, the set-up crew is in the fourth week of a six-week routine to turn the inside of Cabela’s into an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.
“We bring the outdoors inside,” Barrett said.
Stuffed ducks are now over the gun cases in the back of the store. The ducks are flying into the path of two mannequin hunters in tree stands, waiting to shoot. Each hunter wears a blaze orange safety vest.
A mini mountain rises at the end of the store’s center aisle. Just before the mini mountain are a couple of large boulders. Atop each boulder is a stuffed elk with an impressive rack of antlers. The Fort Mill-area store is the first Cabela’s to have the boulder and elk display, Barrett said.
Behind them on the mini mountain are a variety of lifelike animals and an aquarium.
“This is the ‘photo op,’ the place people will stop for pictures,” Barrett said.
It’s also the place where children can learn about the stuffed wildlife in the store. There is a touchscreen that has information about each animal as well as a recording of the sounds they make.
The chance to learn is one of the key marketing tools for Cabela’s. Soon after the grand opening on March 12, Cabela’s will begin offering classes in areas such as gun safety, backpacking, camping, fly fishing and how to shoot a BB gun.
While the classes are for all ages, some are intended to teach the young about the outdoors, creating a lifelong outdoors enthusiast and likely future customer.
Barrett is one of those customers. She has shopped at Cabela’s stores and online for the last 15 years. While Cabela’s continues to build stores, it remains a catalog, now online, retailer.
It’s not only the customers who will learn. Cabela’s wants its employees to know the products and lifestyle they sell. Some of the experience comes from vendor training. Most of it, however, comes from being a hunter, a fisherman, a boater, an outdoors enthusiast.
The goal is to offer the most comprehensive customer service possible. A customer may come in for a specific item, but Barrett said the goal to make sure they are “completely” outfitted for whatever they want to do.
The Fort Mill-area Cabela’s is 104,000 square feet, about one-half the size of the company legacy stores which typically attract customers for hundreds of miles.
While the local store is smaller, Barrett still expects it to be a destination attraction. The closest Cabela’s stores are in Greenville and Garner, N.C.
The grand opening will offer a touch that is unique to Cabela’s.
Instead of cutting the ribbon and opening the doors, a Cabela’s staff member, called an outfitter, will shoot an arrow to break the ribbon. Five outfitters competed for the honor at the store’s indoor archery range. The names of the top three archers were submitted to Michael Copeland, the company’s executive vice president and chief operations officer. Copeland will select the winning archer.
Once the doors open, the experience begins, Barrett said.
“We sell fun.”
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066