1. Business

As Bass Pro Shops pursues rapid Florida expansion, it sheds jobs elsewhere

Bass Pro Shop has been expanding into Florida, including a store to open this week in Brandon and this store in Orlando, even as it has been cutting staff elsewhere. [WILLIE J. ALLEN JR.   |   Times] 
Bass Pro Shop has been expanding into Florida, including a store to open this week in Brandon and this store in Orlando, even as it has been cutting staff elsewhere. [WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times] 
Published Jul. 28, 2015

A much-anticipated Bass Pro Shops store opens Wednesday in Brandon, a 130,000-square-foot, 300-employee reminder that the outdoor recreation company has pegged Florida as big enough to handle at least 15 such stores — far more, so far, than any other state.

It's a clever strategy. Rival and similar-sized outdoor sports company Cabela's, also spreading nationwide from its Nebraska base, has yet to enter Florida and will now be sure to find it crowded.

Wednesday's opening celebration also happens to come just as Bass Pro Shops sheds hundreds of jobs nationwide.

Consider it a signal that rapid growth does not always mean success for everyone.

Bass Pro vice president Paul Shore recently told newspapers out West that the retailer was laying off an average of six employees at most of its nearly 90 retail stores. The private company, with annual revenues topping $4.2 billion, also laid off about 60 employees at its corporate headquarters in Springfield, Mo., and a woodworking shop.

By my estimate, that adds up to at least 500-plus job cuts, or more than 2 percent of Bass Pro's 22,000 workforce. Shore said the layoffs are an effort to be more efficient and have nothing to do with the company's financial situation.

Bass Pro plans to open eight stores this year. Five planned Florida stores will bring the state total to 15. Texas boasts seven stores, and Missouri — where the original Springfield store site is said to draw more than 4 million visitors yearly and is the state's top tourist attraction — has five stores and a catalog outlet.

Among private U.S. companies, Bass Pro Shops ranks No. 100, says a Forbes ranking. The company, largely family owned by founder John Morris, also rates on another Forbes list of best companies to work for.

Outdoor enthusiasts who pay homage to the Brandon store will enter through a reproduction of a Florida hunting lodge and enjoy giant fish aquariums and the jazzy Islamorada restaurant.

That kind of atmosphere is a key difference in stores like Bass Pro Shops or Cabela's, suggests Bruce Cohen, a senior partner at global consultants Kurt Salmon.

"When you go into one of these stores, and you're shopping, say, for a fly rod, you, the customer, are looking for an experience," he told the Deal Pipeline this month.

"That's very different than going into the local sporting goods store with 3,000 to 5,000 square feet and buying a pair of basketball shoes."

This month, Bass Pro Shops stores teamed up with the National Rifle Association to host NRA Freedom Days, which run until Sunday.

Hillsborough County commissioners debated whether to spend $6.25 million on road improvements to attract a Bass Pro Shops store to Brandon. They approved the deal in early 2013, despite complaints by small businesses that a larger competitor was being subsidized by the government.

Small business was right. But as is often the case, all seems forgiven soon after the grand openings.

Contact Robert Trigaux at


  1. A for sale sign is seen in front of a home in the Westchase area of Tampa. CHRIS URSO  |  Times (2013)
    And a spike in cash sales suggests investors were active in the market.
  2. Florida's unemployment rate hit a record low in December. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) [LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP]
    Nearly every major job sector posted gains from a year earlier.
  3. A proposed bill in the Legislature would set a statewide referendum on whether to amend Florida's constitution to add a year to the period when home buyers can transfer their accumulated benefits under the Save Our Homes cap on property assessments to a new home. Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty says going from two years to three would reduce the possibility that construction delays in a booming real estate market would prevent some buyers from meeting the deadline, costing them potentially thousands 
 of dollars in property tax savings. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times (2019)]
    The bill, the idea of Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty, would give buyers another year to transfer their tax savings under Florida’s Save Our Homes assessment cap to a home they’ve...
  4. The Tampa Bay Times' headquarters in downtown St. Petersburg. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    No customer information was compromised. The Times is removing the malicious code.
  5. Concentrix has told the state of Florida that it plans to lay off as many as 174 employees from one of the programs it has at the Interstate Corporate Center east of Tampa. This is the same call center hit with 245 layoffs announced in November. (Google street view photo) [Google Street View]
    In November, Concentrix, the California multinational company that runs the center, announced the layoffs of 245 employees.
  6. Loreen Spencer (left) and Sue Watts, the two newest members of HCI Group's board of directors. [HCI Group]
    “I just wish I had thought of this earlier,” the chairman and CEO said.
  7. Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans will become the headquarters for Medicare and pharmacy operations now that it has been acquired in a $17 billion cash and stock deal by Centene Corp., base in St. Louis. (Times files)
    New owner Centene said it “expects to maintain strong operations in Tampa,” which is anticipated to be the headquarters for its Medicare and pharmacy operations.
  8. A Publix chicken tender sub sandwich. Pub Subs are now easier to order through Instacart grocery deliveries. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
    New Instacart Meal program to make Pub Sub orders a breeze, according to the grocery delivery app.
  9. Johanna Santiago, 50, of Riverview, hopes to start selling her Joba Sofrito early this year. Santiago developed the product, a savory Puerto Rican cooking sauce, with help from the nonprofit Enterprising Latinas in Wimauma. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
    Selling food and crafts, three women are among the dozens who turned to the organization for training in 2019.
  10. Ramon Christopher Blanchett. [Courtesy of Ramon Christopher Blanchett] [Ramon Christopher Blanchett]
    An attorney for Ramon Christopher Blanchett sought a lesser sentence after his client admitted to filing a false return.