Earnings and Exits

Feb 22, 2018

According to a real estate agent I spoke with in Sidney, Nebraska yesterday, homes there are losing their value at a pretty fast clip. A majority of that drop is being attributed to the Cabela’s -Bass Pro Shops deal. More particularly, it’s being tied to a single individual: Johnny Morris, founder and driving force behind Bass Pro Shops -and the man who engineered the takeover of his largest rival. 

Now, he’s  being blamed for ravaging the economy of what was is essentially the white collar equivalent of a mill town. Sidney’s fate has been inextricably intertwined linked to  the major outdoor retailer since local boy Dick Cabela began selling imported fishing flies there decades ago. 

Dick Cabela’s $45  dollar investment in fishing flies grew to become an outdoor retail juggernaut employing 2,000 employees in Sidney before declining sales forced it into the cycle of increasing losses and diminishing results that ended in last year’s $4 billion sale to Morris’ Bass Pro Shops.

The impact, according to Sidney, Nebraska residents will continue to be devastating. 

Cabela’s will, as of next week, have essentially ceased to be a presence. As part of what’s being described as a “clearing out process” BPS has announced severance packages to Cabela’s approximately 800 remaining Sidney employees- and they have until March 1 - next Thursday- to accept them.

Employees over 50 years old with a minimum of 10 years service are being offered two weeks of severance pay for each year of service and a $40,000 bonus -plus a lifetime discount card to Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s stores.

Employees under 50 or with fewer than 10 years of service receive a severance offer and a $20,000 bonus, plus a 10-year discount card.

According to a report in the Omaha World Herald (www.omaha.com) , the offer came with a letter announcing the “voluntary programs, which will expire March 1, are above and beyond what Outfitters will receive in future severance programs.” 

Apparently, only Sidney headquarters employees received the offer. No word on what offers- if any- will be made to employes in Cabela’s Kearney, Lincoln and Denver offices, although Bass Pro Shops has reportedly established a $20 million fund to “enhance normal severance benefits”.

Cabela’s isn’t the only organization in the region that’s hurting. Yesterday, the same World Herald (owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway) that broke the bad news about Cabela’s last week announced it was instituting immediate financial cutbacks, reducing the size of daily editions and eliminating 43 jobs. BH Media, it said, was initiating nationwide cuts, eliminating 148 jobs nationwide- or about 6 percent of its workforce.

A couple of brief notes on other items of interest. This morning’s top story on Ruger’s reduced 2017 results essentially confirms something we’ve known for some time: the firearms industry has officially cooled down from the overwrought demands that continued from the election of former President Obama through the loss of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Ruger, while still profitable, saw sales and per share earnings decrease by twenty-one and thirty-seven cents, respectively. Those numbers were attributed to “decreased overall consumer demand in 2017 due to stronger-than-normal demand in 2016, likely bolstered by the political campaigns for the November 2016 elections.”

It seems that for many in the industry, the good news and the bad news of the elections are now represented by the same man: Donald Trump. 

That’s because his announcement earlier this week that he wants a ban on bump fire stocks and other devices that increase the rate-of-fire of AR-style rifles is viewed as a politician, once again, throwing gun right supporters under the bus after wooing their support to get elected.

Indeed, candidate Trump and later President Trump could be characterized, at least until Tuesday’s announcement, as having a simple message for gun owners: “we will never, never, never infringe on our Second Amendment Rights.”

Now it may seem that our definitions on what Second Amendment protections really mean may differ significantly. For most Second Amendment supporters, any additional regulations on guns are beyond the pale. In fact, many gun rights groups have already begun to spread the word they will seek legal remedies should Attorney General Sessions make a move to place restrictions on either bump stocks or binary style triggers.

Seems a fight with the man gun owners helped put in the White House is brewing over gun rights. If that happens, Mr. Trump may learn that formerly ardent supports make the most fierce opponents.

Like Trump, gun owners don’t easily forgive- or forget- a betrayal. 

We’ll keep you posted.

-- Jim Shepherd