I am absolutely positive about something: If Bass Pro Shops had an outlet in Alaska, Sarah Palin would have spent a considerable amount of time and money in what would undoubtedly be her favourite store.

Bass Pro is certainly Disneyland for true outdoor enthusiasts who like to catch (fish), shoot (hunt), cook or even live outdoors. It is 100,000 square feet of camouflage nirvana – everything from camo Crocs to camo Under Armour to Redhead hunting socks with a lifetime guarantee is featured at Bass Pro. The amount of inventory and depth of assortment is staggering. I am not sure how customers aren’t overwhelmed when they walk in. I imagine the average time spent in this “warehouse” is off the charts way above average. But it must be a goldmine as they have done most everything right.

Their selection is beyond compare. They have different shops for hunting, fishing, boating, outdoor living and apparel. They even have a section for outdoor cooking and a separate section for food and gift giving – not to mention a home decor corner. They sell ATV’s and boats, they carry extreme tree climber chairs, layout blinds and Ranger Ladder Stand “Luxury Boxes” for hunting. Their selection of guns is second to none and you can pick up something called Broadhead targets while you are at it. You can also practice at a shooting arcade for a little interactive experience.

They carry their own private label branded clothing along with the staples of Carhartt, Columbia Sprotswear and The North Face brands. They also carry the largest assortment of neon orange apparel on earth. The assortment of lures is enough to make fish salivate (if they could) and I observed many fishermen do the same as they stood gawking at the selection.

I visited the store at what must be one of their peak seasons. Never mind “back to school” for these guys, it’s “back to bush” as hunting season opens this month and next throughout North America. There were people carrying baskets and wheeling around carts just browsing the aisles for the latest smokehouse or cross-bow with colourful arrows or rugged outboard fishing rig.

I couldn’t help but think about the experience at other sporting goods stores and attempt to compare the experience with this one. For the outdoor enthusiast, this place is pretty special. I wrote about PGA Superstore in an earlier entry and that might come close, but as large as the Bass Pro assortment is, it is very focused and there is a certain intensity that radiates from every corner of the store. There was a buzz at PGA Superstore, but maybe because golf attracts a more heterogeneous crowd, it lacks that same density of intensity.

Other sports could probably benefit from the kind of focused energy this massive store produces. I still do not understand the math with that much inventory to manage and turn, but baseball, football, basketball, soccer and hockey merchants could all take a page from Bass Pro and aim to match the store experience of this outdoor emporium, if not in size, then at least in emotion, energy and edge.

Wait…Didn’t Governor Palin mention something about being a Hockey Mom as well?

TheRetailTherapist 🙂