Last weekend (March 23-24) I joined the hordes of shoppers visiting America’s newest Cabela’s store in Grand Rapids (Grandville), Michigan. Needless to say, the place was absolutely packed. This did not surprise me in the least, as the Cabela’s name can instantly bring recognition and tourism dollars to a community, as well as a good helping of economic investment to spur spin-off establishments.
Over the past couple of decades, destination retailing has grown from a few individual outposts along the Holiday Road (see music video above) like Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota and the original Cabela’s in Sidney, Nebraska to a competitive economic development battleground across the country. Cities and states vie for destination retailers much as they do professional sports teams, airline service, tech firms, and corporate headquarters. Today, there are Cabela’s in 25 states and three provinces (see map below), Bass Pro Shops in 31 states and two provinces. Ron Jon Surf Shops with 12 locations in four states (see photo below), and an IKEA in 37 countries.
These four are among the most recognizable destination retailers in the country, but certainly not the only ones. Often, individual states will have a destination retailer that everyone knows about. Examples include:
- Bart’s Watersports in the North Webster, Indiana
- Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan
- Jelly Belly in Fairfield, California and Kenosha (Pleasant Prairie), Wisconsin
- L.L. Bean in Freeport, Maine
- Precious Moments in Carthage, Missouri
- Vermont Teddy Bear Company in Shelburne, Vermont
- Waccamaw Pottery in Myrtle beach, South Carolina (ceased operations in 2001)
- Wall Drug of Wall, South Dakota
Some destination retailers are completely emblematic of their entire home community, such as Wall Drug where you cannot hardly drive 50 miles without seeing a Wall Drug billboard in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains. Upon visiting this Western icon, one quickly notices there are few other choices in this windswept Badlands town of 766 residents.
An excellent example of the economic development spin-off potential of a destination retailer can be seen in Dundee, Michigan, which is home to one of the largest Cabela’s stores anywhere. Since the store’s opening, a number of ancillary land uses have popped up around the store and the adjacent U.S. 23 & M-50 interchange. These include hotels, a water park, many restaurants, stores and shops, and gas stations/convenience stores. Given Dundee’s 2010 population of 3,957, there are many more shops and services than the town itself could possibly support on its own. Similar examples can be seen anywhere a destination retailer places its footprint.