Death of Dick Cabela Announced
The hunting and outdoor sports worlds this week lost one of its leading figures when Richard Cabela, the co-founder of outdoor gear retailer Cabela’s, died at his home in Sidney, Nebraska aged 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.