Our quick scan of Scheels’ digital presence: Featured at the top of its homepage in mid-March are a variety of fishing products, from rods and reels to a digital fishfinder. Grills, Yeti products and Birkenstocks also jump off the page with smart graphics. Prompts direct us to buy online. No major promos or discounts are flashing. Social media channels are filled with product posts. Website also features a blog with product tips, personal stories and more.
We visited a Scheels store in Eden Prairie, MN. Top takeaways: Scheels is moving into a much larger space with a new Eden Prairie store in 2020, but we were able to visit this smaller mall location and see what the retailer can do on a slightly smaller scale. While the new store will be about 10-times as big and will add more outdoor and hunting and fishing gear, along with having a Ferris wheel, an ice rink to test skates and a restaurant, this current Scheels location in Eden Prairie has a big focus on product. Footwear and apparel are the largest categories. Prominent brands include Under Armour, Nike, The North Face and Sorel. Kuhl, Yeti and HydroFlask also feature strongly. When we visited it was in the middle of a weekday, somewhat slow traffic. Staff were friendly and informative. Store was clean and well lit.
The Rundown: Employee-owned all-sports retailer has 27 existing stores and two scheduled to open in 2020 — a 250,000 sq. ft mall anchor store in Eden Prairie, MN, replacing a smaller store, and a new store set to open in The Colony, TX. Scheels is in 12 states — North Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Nevada, Illinois, Utah, Kansas, and Colorado. (And soon Texas.) Steve D. Scheel, great grandson of Scheels’ founder, is the company’s Chairman of the Board, and great-great grandson Steve M. Scheel is CEO. Bill Nelson serves as president.
Background: The first Scheels location opened in 1902, founded by Frederick A. Scheel, a German immigrant who used the $300 he earned from his first potato harvest as the down payment on a small hardware and general merchandise store in Sabin, MN. The shop had a small selection of sporting goods from the beginning in 1902 and as customer interest grew, more sports gear was added with athletic shoes and clothing being introduced in the product mix in 1972. Privately held and still family-owned, Scheels is now known for its mega stores that are destination shopping experiences.
More Stores on the Horizon: In addition to its new Eden Prairie, MN store and a Texas store, both planned for 2020, Scheels plans to open in Colorado Springs in April, 2021. The Colorado Springs store will be located at Interquest Marketplace near the Great Wolf Lodge, the Summit Entertainment Center and the Hollywood Theater, and will feature 220,000 square feet of what Scheels describes as “retail adventure for the entire family.”
That’s Entertainment: Scheels locations feature specialty shops inside the store, as well as multiple boutiques, meaning the store offers up several experiences and stores-within-stores all under one roof. For example, the new Colorado Springs store on the drawing board will feature 75 specialty shops, a 65-foot operating Ferris Wheel, a 16,000-gallon saltwater aquarium with more than 600 fish, a wildlife mountain, and Fuzziwig’s Candy Shop. Also inside will be interactive arcade games and sports simulators, and specialty treats at Ginna’s Cafe, a restaurant serving gourmet soups and sandwiches, homemade fudge and specialty coffee.
Product Mix: The experience of being at a Scheels location with its Ferris wheel and restaurants (and more) also includes something else very important — a LOT of product. Apparel, footwear, hunting, archery, fishing, fitness, camping, hiking, licensed fan gear, games, toys, home and yard products and electronics for a start. Scheels locations also offer exercise machine repair, racquet stringing, skate sharpening and repair, ski tuning and repair, snowboard tuning and repair, paintball canister refills, bike purchasing, and bike tuning and repair services.