Back about six weeks ago we chimed in on the discussion swirling after Simm’s announced their decision to soon begin direct sales and further restrict sales channels for their dealers; we quoted what we and many others thought was a great piece written by Jerry Lappier of The Trout Shop in Craig, Montana.
Jerry took more than a little heat for standing up to one of the industry giants, including having his dealership status pulled by the way, though we noted very little if any industry response to his very direct and well-founded commentary.
We’ve been chatting back and forth with Jerry for a few weeks now and have an interview in hand that we’ll post next week. Jerry has also written a followup piece which is one of the most thoughtful commentaries on fly fishing retail, particularly focusing on the small, independent shops, that we’ve seen in a long time. It’s a longer read, but it’s our pleasure to post it in its entirety below. If you have any interest at all in the state of independent fly fishing retail this is today’s must read.
Jerry offers a candid and insightful view of the state of fly fishing retail, and contrary to the actions of some industry giants of late, offers some pointed, thoughtful and useful suggestions to make the system work better for all of us.
For what it’s worth (which is very little), we have a friend on the AFFTA board and think as chartered the organization has a very, very important mission. Their board is made up of some very good folks from the fly fishing world who have done and continue to do wonderful things for fly fishing as a whole. That said, AFFTA ain’t perfect, and they’ve got some ground to make up with the heart and soul of fly fishing retail – the independent shops on the front line.
For Fly Fishing
My industry analysis, Have You Been to a Good Fly Shop Lately?, did what I hoped. Doors to candid conversations about the future of the fly fishing industry are a little easier to open. I knew that there would be some bruising as a result of the article, but the pain has been worth it. Attacking the armor of and putting a dent in the status quo has helped bring fly shops’ plight to the surface. Thank you for your strong support.
A strong network of professional fly shops will insure the long term viability of the fly fishing industry as we know it today. If you live a fly fishing lifestyle, you know the difference between a fly shop and a big box experience. Some things can’t be replaced. Without the valuable information, services and products fly shops provide, the fly fishing industry as we know it will end.
Mass distribution of fly fishing products has led to over distribution and commoditization. Industry data strongly indicates that fly shops are being hurt the most by manufacturers’ distribution policies. Fly shops have to contend with a glut of products on the market and price competition. Meanwhile, manufacturers thrive in the false economy they have collectively created by greatly increasing their distribution outlets. Something has to give.
Some of the meaning engrained in my article has been clouded by the Simms direct selling issue. The Simms issue is a big deal, but was only used as an example of behavior that is leading to over distribution in the industry. Information is easy to find on the internet. Conversations regarding Simms direct distribution policy have lit up the blogosphere with a truck load of negative comments and only a hand full of support. Simms direct selling policy is front and center in the latest Tackle Trade World magazine and in Angling Trade Magazine. It’s global now. Simms is not my talking point. Your fishing is.
As they should, consumers hold the cards to how the fly fishing industry moves forward. It is unlikely manufacturers will reverse their distribution policies or that associations will push enough weight around to fix the over distribution problem. You need to vote with your money. The price is the same no matter where you decide to purchase your next pair of waders (in theory). If a fly shop provides you with superior service, why would you shop anywhere else? Please don’t.
AFFTA’s Role in This Mess
From time to time, my article was referenced in the various blog conversations found on the web. One reader wondered why I called out AFFTA and left it at that. He wanted to know if there are any independent fly shop associations that could step up to the plate. With the help of social media, fly shops are gaining a voice and communicating amongst themselves. It will take time. Sadly, I don’t know of any formal independent fly shop associations and, for now, fly shops have to count on AFFTA to speak for them.
AFFTA’s Survey Says……
[Side Note: AFFTA has contracted with Southwick Associates to produce a new survey for 2012. If you’re a retailer, I encourage you to take the time to fill out the survey. You can find it here: http://flyfishing.retailer.sgizmo.com/s3/. Be prepared to spend a few hours completing the questions. Have all of your financial data compiled and break down revenue by product category for years 2007, 2010 and 2011 before you take the survey. Your individual results are reported to you at the end of the survey. Industry results, when completed, will be delivered to you free of charge.]
In the past, AFFTA contracted Leisure Trends to do a comprehensive research survey on the trends in the American fly-fishing market and provided the results to its members for free. While there are other outdoor retail studies available (at least I have been told they exist), to my knowledge AFFTA’s survey is the only survey that specifically analyzes the fly fishing retail business. AFFTA’s survey provides invaluable insight into the industry and represents one of the key benefits of being an AFFTA member. While AFFTA’s data is somewhat dated, it still provided valuable information and was the inspiration to my analysis.
Distribution to big box stores and national chain accounts has had a material and measurable impact upon the core selling outlets of fly fishing – fly shops. Leisure Trends’ data pointed out, “An interesting development in 2007 was the growth of both chain sporting goods stores and specialty (multiple) operations and the decline in specialty (single) and independent sporting goods operations. Compared to 2004, year 2007′s contribution from specialty (multiple) operations (+56.8%) grew much more dynamically than sales among specialty (single) operations (-16.8%). This led to an increase of $71.4 million in total sales for specialty (multiple) operations and a decline of $130 million for specialty (single) operations from 2004. National chains grew 13% from 2006 to 2007.”
Everyone is growing except independent fly shops. If fly shops were struggling prior to the great recession, imagine what they went through during the severe economic decline of 2008 and beyond. In reflecting upon this tidbit of revealing information, I have to wonder how it managed to stay concealed for so long. The lid is off now.
Discover Fly Fishing Needs Something
Discover Fly Fishing is a program developed by AFTTA to help people like you get started fly fishing. On the program’s web site, it says “Fly fishing is fun, relaxing, and it’s a great way for you, your family and your friends to connect with nature. We’re here to make it easy for you to get started”. Beyond this inviting statement, you will find it difficult to figure out exactly what Discover Fly Fishing does.
In a letter from AFFTA (Randi Swisher) dated December 6, 2010, they stated, “We will be updating our new Discover Fly Fishing Program. This marketing program will introduce people to the sport of fly fishing and drive traffic to our retail members and specialty stores. The program will focus on consumer outreach and education to show fly fishing as an exciting, fun, and approachable sport for the whole family”. Randi Swisher stated in his response to my article, “AFFTA’s Consumer Recruitment Committee (charged with overseeing the consumer marketing function of the association by developing and managing existing and alternative customer recruitment channels. Committee members maximize AFFTA’s position and name recognition to direct new and existing fly anglers to industry retailers, and fly-fishing service providers) is responsible for the Discover Fly Fishing program. This committee has had its challenges no doubt. Randi goes onto say, “The committee has looked at a variety of options from producing written instruction guides to promoting youth events to a full on marketing campaign. The fact of the matter is none of these efforts have proven to the leadership to be worth investing significant amounts of money in. We believe we need to deliver a program that doesn’t just introduce people to fly fishing but actually turns them into fly fishing anglers. In the absence of a clear path to success we will not invest in projects just to say we are doing something. We are currently evaluating in-school education programs similar to what the archery industry has done. When we think we have the right project, we will find (fund?) it with the industry’s support.” Being an effective committee is not an easy task. Ideas and suggestions are relatively easy to come by. Getting the board of directors to approve and implement committee suggestions is another matter. From Randi’s remarks, it sounds like suggestions have been made, but nothing has made it through the ranks. 2011 yielded no results despite a promised concerted effort.
I’m sure the committee members want to help introduce new customers to the fly fishing industry, but really nothing is being done that is visible. Discover Fly Fishing’s web site states “Use this website to receive how-to information and to find Discover Fly Fishing events, Learning Centers and Resources in your state and around the country. You can also take your next steps right here and find information on great fly fishing products, pro shops and conservation organizations that will be sure to help you move forward.” The Discover Fly Fishing web site hasn’t been updated since 2010 and is completely devoid of information. Discover Fly Fishing’s blog has not had an entry since April 16, 2011. Discover Fly Fishing’s facebook page does not promote any association sponsored events and there are very few postings from anyone.
Surely, something can be done.
AFFTA’s Diversity is in Question
Randi goes on to say in his response, “The trade association is comprised of 16 Board of Directors (15 elected Board members and the President) who represents 5 categories within the fly fishing industry. Each category represents one sector of the fly fishing industry: retailers, manufacturers, sales representatives, media/PR marketing/associations/government/educational and travel/guides/lodges. The make-up of the Board currently has no fewer than two members representing each of these categories. In the history of AFFTA, the current AFFTA Board has never been so diverse in nature and well represented of the ENTIRE fly fishing industry”. Below, I’ve listed excerpts from each board members’ (and the President’s) biography found on AFFTA’s web site.
1. Randi Swisher , President – most recently serving as Corporate Account Manager for the International Sportsmen’s Exposition (ISE) where his responsibilities included exhibit sales, show management, and retailer / manufacturer partnerships for ISE’s 5 regional consumer outdoor shows. Randi worked in marketing and sales roles for Lamiglas and Sage for 15 years, and for 5 years he owned a manufacturer’s rep company serving the Rocky Mountain region while representing 8 premier fly fishing brands.
2. Gary Berlin, Business Manager – Berlin earned his undergraduate degrees in Natural Resource Management with a double major in Business Management in 1977 from Mesa College. With a strong interest in wildlife biology, Berlin started his career as a District Wildlife Manager in 1980 with the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW) and worked “the field” for eleven years.
3. Scott Harkins – Scott has operated as a manufacturer’s rep in the Central Rockies for the last thirteen years and currently resides in Steamboat Springs, Colorodo, where his four person agency represents several high-end lines in the hard good and apparel categories. Scott hopes to grow the industry by bridging gaps and building relationships between other fellow reps and retailers, providing a more solidified and viable industry.
4. Gary Jennings is the publisher of Fly Fishing in Salt Waters magazine. Gary’s goal as an AFFTA board member is to contribute to the growth of fly-fishing and the success of the businesses associated with it.
5. Jim Klug, Chairman – Founder and Director of Operations for Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, Jim has worked in the fly fishing industry since the age of 14 – as a guide, sales rep, travel coordinator, and as past National Sales Manager for Scientific Anglers.
6. Jim Lebson – currently the Executive Director of G.Loomis, Inc.
7. Mike Gawtry – Product Line Manager for Fishing and Hunting at L.L. Bean Inc. Starting on the retail sale’s floor in 1996, Gawtry’s experience within the fly fishing industry has evolved from fly-casting instructor, research and testing specialist, product developer, to his most prior position, Divisional Merchandise Manager at the Orvis Company.
8. Tom Sadler – In July of 2008 Tom left Washington D.C. to pursue his passion for fly-fishing and conservation. He started The Middle River Group in order to provide strategic and tactical marketing, communications and advocacy expertise to the conservation and wildlife management community and the hunting, fishing and shooting sports industry.
9. Jeff Watt – has been involved in all facets of the Fly Fishing Industry outside of manufacturing. I have tied flies commercially, guided, worked retail and am getting ready to start my 18th year as a manufacturer’s representative. I currently work for or have worked for several of the largest fly fishing vendors and have been instrumental in bringing fly fishing products to the largest retailers in the country. Years ago these retailers were not considered outlets for specialty retail, now they might be viewed as a saving grace.
10. Jeff Wieringa – In 2008, he moved into his current management role as project manager for the entire Scientific Anglers product group, overseeing sales and marketing, along with the overall development and management of the Scientific Anglers brand at 3M.
11. Dustin Carlson – Dustin is the owner of Fishwest, Inc. a Sandy, Utah fly shop and guide service. Fishwest has established itself as an extremely progressive fly shop that markets fly fishing products world-wide.
12. Kate Fox – Her career has included over twenty years in publishing and she was associated for ten years with the magazines American Angler, Fly Tyer, and Saltwater Fly Fishing.
13. Larry Barrett – Larry is the Director of Operations and Technology for Far Bank Enterprises, the holding company for Sage Manufacturing, Redington Tackle & Apparel and RIO products.
14. Pat Pendergast – Director of International Travel at The Fly Shop. Pat’s motivation to join the AFFTA team stems from his sincere wish to make fly fishing more readily available to broader demographic as well as initiate grass roots efforts to organically grow fly fishers from the youth population.
15. Riley Cotter – He helped open the Denver Bass Pro Shop’s, White River Fly Shop in 2005 and starting in the fall of 2006 he started his career with Umpqua Feather Merchants.
16. Jim Murphy – 1992-1994. Operations Manager. Thomas and Thomas 1995-2003, Founder and President. Redington Fly Rod Co. 2003-2007. Founder and President Albright Tackle Company. 2008- Present. President. Hardy North America. AFFTA is the one place where we put our own business’s priorities aside and work together to build the industry.
There are some great people on AFFTA’s board, but calling the board diverse seems like a stretch. According to dictionary.com, “Diverse – of a different kind, form, character, etc.; unlike: a wide range of diverse opinions”. There are at least 10 AFFTA Board Members with manufacturer’s leanings. While manufacturers and sales reps are given two categories of the five that comprise AFFTA, the definition of diversity leads me to believe that they are in fact one-in –the-same. Sales reps get their paychecks from manufacturers. Dustin Carlson of Fishwest is the only pure fly shop board member. Pat Pendergast from The Fly Shop has fly shop roots, but runs their international travel department. The remaining board members represent the media industry or perform public relations duties.
Battling uphill is the name of the game for fly shops.
Does IFTD Provide ROI?
Arguably, the most important assignment for AFFTA is preparing the International Fly Tackle Dealer (IFTD) Show. Manufacturers and retailers have the chance to meet to view products and discuss policies. AFFTA’s annual coming out party is great fun, but its true value has to be questioned.
In the March 6 Edition of Angling Trade Magazine, Steven Schweitzer writes in his article What’s Your Beef that if he were a manufacturer, he would question the ROI of going to the show. The rewards from displaying at the show simply aren’t enough to justify the expense. IFTD has been declining since 2003. Attendance dropped 15% in 2011 from 2010. Some vendors felt last year’s show was a success, but the consensus was that while there were quality retailers at the show, there simply weren’t enough of them to call it a good show.
From a retailers’ point of view, the ROI is not adequate to attend the show. Granted, some new dealers will find the show highly beneficial. For most however, the products presented at the show represent nothing new. Manufacturer’s sales reps do a great job of showing products to dealers without the need to attend the show. At best, retailers will find a few new products worth purchasing at the IFTD Show. Going to the IFTD Show is too expensive to only see a few new products. Viewing products on the web and/or requesting samples from manufactures are free. Attending IFTD seminars is beneficial, but still doesn’t put the ROI question into positive ground. A few hours in front of your computer can yield similar educational benefits. Why spend the money on a show that doesn’t yield much beyond a hangover? Unless The Trout Shop sees a dramatic change in the show that tilts the ROI question, we do not plan on attending the AFFTA show and will shift our spending towards the Outdoor Retailer Show where the ROI debate is not an issue for us.
More vendors will display their products at the IFTD show if more retailers attend the show. More retailers will attend the show if more vendors display their products. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
What is AFFTA’s True Mission?
AFFTA’s mission according to their web site is: “To Promote the Sustained Growth of the Fly-Fishing Industry”. From a response posted on The Trout Shop’s River Wire Blog, AFFTA’s acting President Randi Swisher states, “In response to Jerry’s post, I’d like to provide some facts regarding the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA). AFFTA’s mission is to promote the sustained growth of fly fishing by developing the consumer market for fly fishing products.” I’m not sure where the words “by developing the consumer market for fly fishing products” came from, but from a fly shop’s perspective I welcome them. Given that there are no formal fly shop associations and that AFFTA is the “sole voice of fly fishing”, adding the tag line onto their mission statement seems like a positive step forward. AFFTA’s mission remains the same despite Randi Swisher’s statement.
A mission statement change from AFFTA is not necessary. Living up to their charter is.
There’s a Glimmer of Hope
I have been writing this letter for over a month. Each time that I have put the letter to rest, I have had to revise it because new and relative information has come forward.
One bright spot for retailers can be found by the actions being taken at AFFTA. In a press release dated April 5, 2012, AFFTA announced that Randi Swisher has “assumed the new title of “Show Manager and Coordinator for AFFTA”. With numerous projects and the current plans that the organization has in the works, the AFFTA Board realized that Swisher (as President) was being asked to accomplish too much by himself, especially given the fact that AFFTA’s membership is expecting a successful IFTD Show in Reno as well as more programs and projects that will help grow and promote the sport of fly fishing. This realignment was needed to give Randi some much-needed support.” Benjamin Bulis was hired to act as the interim general manager to handle day-to-day affairs. In a separate press release on April 6, 2012, AFFTA announced that they have appointed Tucker Ladd, owner of Trout’s Fly Fishing in Denver, Colorado, who will fill a vacancy on the AFFTA board effective immediately. In private memos, AFFTA is reaching out to find ways to get more dealers involved.
AFFTA has a long ways to go to become truly diverse, but they appointed a retailer for a reason and deserve recognition for their positive moves. AFFTA may not have a president, but they appear to be trying to build a better organization. Let’s hope so, but let’s keep their feet to the fire. We need the voice they promise in their mission statement.
The Fall Out
Before I released Have You Been to a Good Fly Shop Lately?, I shared it with a few close friends. They were supportive, but wondered if I was going too far and was putting my neck on the line. I made a few revisions to soften the tone, but was determined to get the word out and did not want to dilute the message. When I pushed the send button, it felt right.
Rumor mills have a way of getting the word out quickly, but not always accurately. Fly fishing is no exception. Many inquiring minds have asked if Simms pulled The Trout Shop’s dealership shortly after I published my industry analysis. Simms has not publicly stated that they have pulled our dealership, so I’ll make it official. Simms pulled The Trout Shop’s dealership.
Despite the bruising that The Trout Shop took, it’s critical to keep the dialogue focused on my article’s true goal – to encourage consumers to seriously consider where they buy their fly fishing products in the face of over distribution. The article I wrote was NOT about Simms. It was about the systemic problems facing the fly fishing industry today and how we can collectively reverse course and head off disaster.
The Simms Saga Anyway
Here’s my take on the fallout with Simms:
Instead of a supportive relationship, Simms “believes I am intent upon damaging their brand that they have worked so hard to develop”. With a hefty existing Simms inventory on hand at The Trout Shop, damaging the Simms brand seems foolish. Any damage to the Simms brand, I believe, starts within Simms’ own hierarchy. I disagree with their assertion and am only critical of Simms’ distribution polices. As I told Simms, I do not support their previous distribution policy changes, their present distribution policy or their future distribution policies. They are correct in their belief that our relationship was going nowhere and needed to end.
Simms was disappointed that I didn’t call or e-mail anyone at Simms before posting a 4,000 word blog that was largely critical of their company. They took things personally rather than accepting a challenge and changing. Simms did not feel obligated to consult with any fly shops before they radically changed their distribution policy by agreeing to sell to Cabela’s and other national accounts. Nor did they consult with The Trout Shop before they opened a competing fly shop two doors away. In fact, I was told that opening a dealer a stone’s throw away from us was Simms’ business and not The Trout Shop’s. Opening a new dealer in Craig would prove to be good for the brand. Nor did Simms consult with any fly shops before they decided to sell direct to the public via their web site. Nor did The Trout Shop consult with Simms before publishing a 4,000 word blog that was largely critical of their company and was aimed directly at their distribution policies. Communication is a two-way street. It’s frustrating when the street only goes one-way.
Here’s a brief rundown of The Trout Shop’s relationship with Simms:
• The Trout Shop became a Simms Dealer with exclusive dealership terms (limited distribution through specialty stores only – protected by territory). It was so long ago that I can’t remember the year we started up with them (mid 1990’s).
• The Trout Shop’s business grew robustly buoyed by the popularity of fly fishing, increased property values, our hard work and, to some degree, the popularity of Simms’ products.
• In 2004, Simms breaks from the exclusive dealership model and agrees to sell to Cabela’s.
• Simms’ sales representative assures The Trout Shop that the distribution change will not affect us. The skepticism started.
• Simms sales representative was let go and was replaced with a marketing consultant with big box store experience about 4 months after the distribution change announcement.
• Former Simms sales representative helps spearhead Cloudveil Fly Fishing.
• The Trout Shop opens with Cloudveil while maintaining spending levels with Simms.
• Simms opens a local competitor because The Trout Shop made a significant investment in Cloudveil products.
• The Trout Shop learns of Simms’ direct sales policy through the grapevine during the summer of 2011.
• Determined not to be affected by Simms’ new distribution policy, The Trout Shop cuts its orders with Simms for the remainder of the 2011 season and by 65% for the 2012 season.
• In February 2012, Simms discloses their new distribution policy where they will sell direct to the public and will prohibit dealers from selling on ebay or Amazon.com starting August 1, 2012 – a surprise to many.
• After Simms’ announcement, I released Have You Been to a Good Fly Shop Lately?
• On February 27 (four days after the articles publication), Simms decides to stop selling to The Trout Shop.
The Trout Shop knew Simms would be upset over the article, but we were ready for the consequences of our actions. There are lots of great products out there and they are easy to find. Why should The Trout Shop support a brand that doesn’t support The Trout Shop?
If anything, the article was my risky attempt at getting the word out regarding the false economy of fly fishing and simultaneously doing my best to help preserve the roots of the fly fishing industry. Certainly, there are Simms dealers that will back the brand to the end and dispute my position. Ask any Simms Affiliate Dealer and they will back Simms 100%. Likewise, Simms backs them 100%. Many Simms dealers have a tenuous relationship with the company and agree with my position. It’s a free country where everyone is entitled to their own opinion. For sure, you know mine.
In my opinion, Simms’ success with their new direct sales distribution channel depends largely upon how they treat their retailers. Simms is now competing directly with their dealers while acting like they are their best friend. I don’t believe they can have it both ways. Hopefully, Simms Dealers will see policy changes at Simms directed towards helping fly shops level the playing field with their larger competitors and not simply hear calming lip service or see well documented publicity events. Actions count. Words don’t count. So far, Simms is determined to follow their present path to success.
The Trout Shop is not a follower and will continue on its own independent path. The tide is out and we’re not waiting for it to return.
Who Do We Turn To?
The Trout Shop isn’t turning to anyone except us. Our main focus will be upon being a better retailer. Certainly, we will seek support from our remaining manufacturing base which is as extensive as any in the industry and we will build new relationships. Feathers have been ruffled at our manufacturers’ offices. Unlike with Simms, however, our remaining relationships are strong and improving. They are listening and are overtly offering their support.
Brands are not real things. Brands are developed over time and become the way you feel about a company after you have seen and heard enough advertising impressions. When applied consistently, a brand will become recognized and familiar to individuals. When a customer sees or hears a brand message, they know what the brand is communicating to them. A brand that is well perceived helps retailers sell products. When a brand delivers by producing top quality products that sell, everyone wins.
The Trout Shop has always sought out great products first and brands second. If a product performs as promised, customer satisfaction follows as does brand recognition. It’s our job to make sure the products we provide our customers truly are the best available and provide the greatest consumer value. We do our best to make sure branded products live up to their brand’s image. In the age of the internet, comparing product features and benefits is easy to do. Fly fishing products are expensive. You owe it to yourself to research products before you buy them. Remember, product value should come first and brand recognition second.
When The Trout Shop picked up the Cloudveil brand, we did so in an attempt to differentiate ourselves from others including Cabela’s. At the time, Cloudveil looked promising and potentially could compete with Simms head-to-head with their products. Still, the strength of Simms kept us buying Simms’ products until we were sure about Cloudveil. We felt it was necessary to keep following the Simms’ brand and purchasing their products despite our feelings towards their distribution policies. In retrospect, it was a good thing that we clung onto the Simms’ brand. Cloudveil failed quickly.
Now, enter Patagonia into the mix. The Trout Shop has been a Patagonia dealer for quite awhile. For years, Patagonia was pretty quiet in the fly fishing industry despite their founder’s passion for the sport. Over the last two years, we’ve noticed a renewed drive by Patagonia to be a serious competitor in the fly fishing industry. We have faith in them. If you would like to learn how a brand can continuously build superior products, check out Yvon Chouinard’s (founder of Patagonia) enlightening book Let My People Go Surfing. Building great products is built into their company culture. While we lost a power brand with Simms, we are delighted to have access to Patagonia products. They have pretty good brand recognition too.
Removing the Simms’ cloud over our organization has been refreshing. Suddenly, we are retailing once again. Using our open-to-buy budget left in the wake of Simms departure to seek out and find niche products and superior products has been fun. We’re ready for 2012 and look forward to sharing our story and our many new products with you.
The Hard Facts
AFFTA’s studies led to more questions and more research which revealed even more problems with the structure and management of the fly fishing industry. Accepting the facts and focusing on solutions will move the industry forward.
Fly shops are the heart of the industry, but they are silenced by the dominance of manufacturers. We live in a “top-down” industry. Perhaps it’s time that we seriously strived for a “bottom-up” approach.
Fly shops are important, but are not innocent and clearly play a role in the demise of the historical fly fishing model. Fly shops need to improve their business skills for a host of reasons. Cabela’s isn’t complacent and is planning a major new fly fishing initiative. Let’s face it; the protected dealer arrangement that drove the industry for years has fallen to the weight of the internet and manufacturers’ distribution policies. The damage has been done. Now, fly shops need to accept the challenge and prove they can lead the industry forward by being savvy retailers.
Steven Schweitzer states in his article, “What I have seen in this incestuous business over the past decade is an industry trade association that doesn’t follow its own charter, retailers that don’t want to admit it’s time to get more professional, manufacturers distancing themselves from fly shops, and finger-pointing apathy all around. No wonder we ask where the newcomers are. Isn’t it time we all own the problem and buck up to solve it?” I couldn’t agree more.