The Nebraska-based firm's Canadian division -- Cabela's Canada -- has spent the last two months quietly renovating the 345,000-square-foot former DeFehr Furniture plant on Pandora Avenue East.
It plans to start moving into the leased premises on March 12 and to have it fully operational by March 22.
The Canadian division's head office, call centre, and distribution operations are currently housed in a warehouse attached to the rear of the company's lone Canadian store at 1300 Ellice Ave. The relocation of those operations to Pandora Avenue will enable Cabela's to add another 8,500 square feet of retail space to the 41,000-square-foot outlet.
"This will consolidate our Canadian operations and provide a solid launching point for our planned expansion throughout Canada," Cabela's International CEO Tommy Millner said of the move. "Winnipeg has been our first home in Canada and will remain the focal point of our operations here."
McKay said Winnipeg and the Pandora Avenue facility, which Cabela's is leasing on a long-term basis, are ideally suited for a national headquarters and distribution centre.
"Winnipeg is centrally located, has a dedicated, reliable workforce and it has an outstanding business climate that has been great for the growth of Cabela's Canada," he said. " (And) with its close proximity to rail lines and the Trans-Canada Highway, this site is ideal for servicing our expansion into Eastern and Western Canada."
Jim Kulik, an independent broker with Colliers Pratt McGarry who was hired by Cabela's to find a new home for their national headquarters, said the firm looked at a number of buildings. But the DeFehr facility, which had been available for more than a year, was best-suited to their needs.
He said the deal will likely be one of the largest leasing transactions in the city in 2010.
"There are not too many tenants who can commit to that amount of space. So those (size of deals) don't come along every day."
Cabela's plans to kick off its expansion with the opening of two new stores this year in Western Canada -- one in the spring and the other in the fall. McKay said the locations will be announced within the next couple of weeks.
He said the goal for Cabela's is to establish itself as the largest "multi-channel marketer" of hunting, fishing, camping and related outdoor merchandise in Canada. In addition to its bricks-and-mortar stores, the company has a thriving catalogue and e-commerce business.
For competitive reasons, McKay wouldn't say how many stores Cabela's hopes to open in Canada, or which cities it's targeting.
He said the Canadian stores won't be as big as some of the Cabela's superstores in the United States, which are up to 250,000 square feet in size. The company's new retail format calls for outlets of 100,000 square feet or less, depending on the size of city.
But while they won't be as big, McKay said the new Canadian stores will have "a similar look and feel." That means some of them could include such razzle-dazzle features as a Conservation Mountain display showing stuffed animals in their natural habitat.
"But it's going to be a Canadian version of that," he said.
With the expansion into other parts of Canada, McKay said Cabela's will be going head to head with such outdoor-merchandise retailers as Wholesale Sports in Western Canada, Sale Baron in the east and U.S.-based Bass Pro, with stores in Toronto and Calgary.
Kulik said while Cabela's has leased the entire Transcona building, it will only be using about 100,000 square feet to start with. McKay said about 100 of the company's 215 workers in Winnipeg will be relocating to the Pandora complex. More will be added as new stores open and distribution operations expand, but McKay said it's too soon to say how many.
Let's go hunting
for some facts
Here are some details about Cabela's International and its Winnipeg operations:
"ö One of North America's largest marketers of hunting, fishing, camping and outdoor gear.
"ö Started in 1961 as a home-based mail-order business run by the husband-and-wife team of Dick and Mary Cabela of Chappell, Neb.
"ö Has 29 stores either operating or under construction in the United States and one in Winnipeg. The U.S. outlet best known to most Winnipeggers would be its 60,0000-square-foot store in East Grand Forks, Minn.
"ö Also has a thriving catalogue and Internet-sales operation that ships millions of dollars worth of goods each year to customers throughout the United States and to 125 other countries.
"ö Became a publicly traded company in 2004. Its shares (CAB) trade on the New York Stock Exchange.
"ö Established a beachhead in Canada in 2007 with the acquisition of a Winnipeg hunting and fishing retail institution -- S.I.R. Mail Order and Warehouse Sports store. It extensively renovated both the interior and exterior of S.I.R.'s facility at 1300 Ellice Ave, and said that would also temporarily serve as headquarters for its fledgeling Canadian operations.
"ö Establishing a newly leased office/manufacturing/warehouse complex at 770 Pandora Ave. E. as the new home for its Canadian head office, call centre and national distribution centre. The building includes 35,000 square feet of office space and 310,000 square feet of warehouse space.