In a letter to Cabela’s employees, Bass Pro Shops CEO Johnny Morris wrote that Cabela’s sales have been underperforming over the last few years and the overall company has been “under the weight of an extremely heavy corporate payroll.” The document also revealed a few details of the transition process as a result of the Bass Pro/Cabela’s merger.

Much of the 11-page letter, sent to employees last Thursday, was positive and Morris admitted that Bass Pro was continuing to evaluate which jobs would remain in Sidney, NE, the home of Cabela’s, as well as Springfield, MO, where Bass Pro is based and where the merged company will be headquartered. He also identified that a number of jobs that would remain in Nebraska.

According to the letter obtained by The World-Herald, Morris said Bass Pro plans to keep Cabela’s information technology division, which employs 125 people; as well as a “significant” part of Cabela’s accounting operations in Sidney. The distribution center will also will remain open.

Many locals have been long been concerned about how the merger have affect jobs in Sidney. Cabela’s employs about 2,000 of the city’s 6,800 citizens.

Employees in Sidney will be consolidated into one of the Cabela’s office buildings. Empty buildings on the Cabela’s campus will “effectively be donated” by Bass Pro to the city of Sidney. Bass will lease them for $1 per year to any qualified businesses that may want to open an operation in Sidney.

“One of our biggest priorities is to be as thoughtful to Cabela’s outfitters and the City of Sidney as we possibly can, and go above and beyond what is required to be very fair and supportive,” Morris wrote in the document.

Outside of Sidney, Cabela’s credit card operation will remain in Lincoln, NE, according to the letter, as well as call centers in Grand Island, Kearney, North Platte and Lincoln in the state. The call centers employ approximately 350 people.
Cabela’s stores in Sidney as well as stores in Kearney and La Vista in the state will remain open.

The document also detailed an executive staff of 12 individuals that would be guiding the merged company, including three Cabela’s veterans. They include Ralph Castner, who had been Cabela’s chief financial officer, who will serve as CFO for the combined company. Sarah Kaiser, director of Diversity and Talent Management at Cabela’s, will become senior vice president of human resources for the combined company; and Sheila Dormann, vice president of accounting and controller at Cabela’s, will become vice president of finance for White River Marine Group, one of Bass Pro’s subsidiaries. The three will relocate to Springfield.

In the letter Thursday, Morris thanked employees and wrote he hoped they take pride in their personal contributions to building iconic brands, according to the letter obtained by The World-Herald.

On the last page of the document, however, Morris detailed “the realities of a competitive retail market and challenging outdoor/hunting segment.” He noted that more than 1,000 outdoors-related stores have closed in recent years and singled out Cabela’s as an underperformer, noting that the chain’s sales have been in decline since 2013 and the business was likely to lose money in 2017.

Cabela’s “has been operating under the weight of an extremely heavy corporate payroll that is over two times greater than that of Bass Pro Shops to conduct relatively the same volume of business,” Morris said in the letter.

He added, “It is now time for a new approach and to turn around the strategies that did not work.”

The filing noted that an additional $10 million has been allocated to extend benefits and pay for employees who will lose their jobs. CareerArc has been retained to help employees who may have lost their jobs and may need to relocate to find work. An early retirement package is being explored.

Morris signed the cover letter to the document, “Respectfully and with Great Optimism!”

The document follows this year’s purchase of Cabela’s by Bass Pro for more than $4 billion. The deal was completed on September 25. The deal, in the works for more than a year, brings Cabela’s 82 stores in the U.S. and Canada into the Bass Pro Shops fold. Bass Pro Shops has 95 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

When the merger closed on September 25, Morris wrote, “As we move forward, we are committed to retaining everything customers love about both Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s by creating a ‘best-of-the-best’ experience that includes the superior products, outstanding customer service and exceptional value our customers have come to expect. We’re also deeply motivated by the potential to significantly advance key conservation initiatives.”

Photo courtesy Bass Pro