When does a store turn into an experience? Boasting massive stores and large-attractions, Bass Pro Shops blurs the line between shopping and entertainment. The headquarters store in Springfield, Missouri is the largest tourist attraction in the state, drawing over 4 million visitors a year with its theme park-like attractions. Their Memphis, TN store, also known as the Bass Pro Pyramid, doubles as a 100-room hotel and holds the largest free-standing elevator in the United States. We ranked the retailer’s best attractions, and the list contains features from stores both big and small.
10. The Animal Displays
In each Bass Pro Shop store, dozens of animals arranged in nature scenes crowd the store. The animals are the main contributor to the atmosphere, making you feel like you’re already out in nature before you go on your first outing with your new equipment. When I first walked into Bass Pro Shop, my eyes were drawn to the ceilings, not immediately to any products. The displays made me want to go further into the store, and it was immediately apparent that this was a unique shopping experience. Bass Pro is in an interesting category–the nature of the inventory leads people to want to try the equipment in-store before purchasing, and the spectacle of the store makes the experience memorable.
9. The Fish
At the end of the store’s main avenue, I found a large aquarium filled with different kinds of fish. It was then that I realized that even though the equipment was largely for outdoor enthusiasts–fishing, hunting, camping, and the like–the store itself was geared towards families. In addition to the live feedings at the aquarium, I found that there were family-focused events planned throughout the month.
I asked an employee about the fish, and I got much more information than I expected. They told me about each of the different fish, what kind of bait they like, the kind of fishing gear I should use, how long they were biting, and even told me that I could buy or renew a fishing license right in the store. The fish weren’t there solely for decoration, and were a sign of the ongoing link between Bass Pro and outdoors education.
8. Archery Range
As I walked towards the hunting area of the store, I noticed a large sign painted on the wall. Although there were many things painted on the walls of the store, this one stood out to me because it read, “Archery Range.” This area held all the archery equipment, ranging from bows and quivers to sport-specific clothing. An employee there explained that in the archery range, behind the door pictured above, I could test out the bows and get a feel for what suited me best. I was a little surprised, but it seemed that Bass Pro was committed to the idea of being a one-stop shop for outdoor gear. I got the impression that if a customer made the trip out to the store, Bass Pro would make sure they had all the information and experience they needed to make a purchasing decision. I couldn’t try my hand at archery on this visit, but I was impressed by what I got to see of the range with the attending employee.
7. Shooting Gallery
Apart from the try-before-you-buy attitude of the store, there’s also a focus on entertainment. Though the San Jose, California store didn’t have this amenity, the Manteca, California store and many others around the country feature an arcade shooting gallery. The arcade varies from store to store, but the base remains the same — families line up to the shooting gallery so everyone can compete and have fun scoring points. This family attraction is reason enough for families to visit the store, and lets younger customers interact with the store and make fond memories. Even though my first visit to a Bass Pro Shop was in 2008, I still vividly remember the shooting gallery and the area of the store that was around it.
6. Fudge Shop
The number one spot may come as a surprise: a full-service fudge shop. How does a re-purposed general store top this list? For retailers like Costco and IKEA, the dining options help to get people into the store and are a matter of convenience. Bass Pro Shop has in-store restaurants at many of its locations, but none of the localized eateries made this list because they focused on convenience and entertainment. The individual restaurants are not the draw, the rest of the store is. However, the fudge shop is different. It seems like an afterthought, but the fudge holds a closer association to the store than any of the dining options. In 2017, the retailer gave away 19 tons of fudge to celebrate their ranking on a Forbes national survey. Bass Pro Shops ranked 19th on a list of “America’s Most Reputable Companies” compiled from 43,000 respondents, and spent weeks preparing the fudge for the giveaway.
Some stores are more active in fudge production, but the fudge is still a major draw for the retailer–the fudge is even available to buy on Bass Pro Shop’s website. This attraction heavily contributes to the family-friendly image, as well. After a day of shopping and exploring the store, a family can pick up a treat on their way out. The fudge shop stands in for a gift shop in the smaller stores — after all, a full-size gift shop wouldn’t make sense for most retailers. Here, the customer can take away an edible souvenir that bridges food experiences with retail experiences. More than that, the fudge from Bass Pro Shop is popular in a way that’s unique compared to other retailers’ food offerings.
In the next part in this countdown, we cover the experiences in the larger national stores. The Bass Pro Pyramid and the headquarters store are distinct in that they push the national image of the retailer through tourism and overwhelming size. In addition to a free-standing glass elevator and specialized attractions, these national stores also focus more heavily on education. For other information on stores placing value on experiences over products, you can read our review of Nordstrom Local (a product-less department store) here. For a closer look at America’s most unique grocery experiences, you can visit our list of the top supermarkets here.