Too big to fail was an interesting experiment, not likely to happen again, which is why Kaufmann’s Streamborn wasn’t bailed out.

The latest issue of Angling Trade brings together a number of articles related to the growing gulf between anglers, fly shops, and manufacturers, given that each is struggling to evolve and survive in the face of a double dip recession.

It’s probably their best issue yet, but after digesting it from cover to cover I’m unsettled by some of the commentary.

Maybe we should all wake up and smell the coffee. It isn’t about hair salons, or Costco, or even big box stores and direct sales over the Internet. It’s about who really cares about fly shops, and who backs words with action. Any action. Think on that, and you already know who has your back, and who doesn’t.

Naturally I’ve got my own ideas about how all this is supposed to work, and knowing that us taxpayers share an increasing frustration over posturing politicians, CEO’s, and those that nearly bankrupted the economy, yet I’m still a little surprised that someone would think we owe anything to anyone that wasn’t earned the old fashioned way.

Why does someone in this industry think I owe an underfunded childhood fantasy a decent living?

There’s little to fear in a good Darwin-esque pruning of fly shops, and with the economy teetering on the brink of another possible swoon, my responsibility is to look out for me and mine.

China as manufacturing juggernaut

With a literate and professional clientele, one possible shakeout is reflected in the upheaval of the fly fishing media business. It’s not so much dead tree versus digital as it is frustrated anglers realizing they can do a better job themselves – with an explosion of eZine’s to back up that bold claim.

A dozen or so that I’m aware of – and probably a half dozen or so that I’m not, with non-existent costs and imaginary profits. They’ll persist long enough to dilute the Dead Tree crowd a bit more – perhaps becoming the last straw for a few old timey companies, given the high costs of print, and leaving a few digital “labor-of-love-zines” that are the voice of some edgy niche, just to keep the print survivors honest.

While each of the Angling Trade articles speak to a separate niche within the overall industry, the common thread uniting all of them appears to be the question, “when is it okay to break the traditional specialty business relationship between manufacturer and shop to save your own arse?”

Evolution being impossible without breaking a few eggs.

The reality is I don’t need Scott, Sage, Echo, Orvis, Hardy, Thomas & Thomas, Winston, Loomis, and all their ilk to keep me in fly rods. I could lose two or three of these hoary old brands and not miss a thing.

In contemporary graphite rods, the difference in their tackle is more marketing fluff than tangible feel – and it’s been that way for some time – fly rods being like cars, with devotees and zealots devoted to their respective brands. Yet rod companies remain aloof, they never asked me whether I liked two-piece better’n three-piece rods, and now that you’re hawking three deadening ferrules on a nine foot rod, I’m wondering what in hell they’re thinking about.

In short, we share the same rarified levels of loyalty for one another …

Everyone is looking for an elusive, evil “middleman” so they can drive profits up finally drive costs down, but who is that shadowy guy, and isn’t he the shop that you are telling ME to save?

K.C. Walsh, president of Simms Fishing Products, also
acknowledged that fly shops need to make a living. But, when some shops are selling gear that competes with his company’s products, it does change the relationship somewhat.

So the big manufacturer’s break with tradition and opt for the big box stores and go Internet-direct to the customer. That’s been done before, it appeared to work for the old Fenwick business model in the Eighties, whose rods were the “Sage” of its day, yet were in every Big 5, most gas stations, supermarkets, and were the premier brand for the little niche shops.

Niche shops were robust with some crazy-good talent and able to distinguish their value-add from one another, more failed than prospered but that’s always been true of small hobby markets whose proprietors fail to fund and plan their retirement livelihood.

Service has always been the key to success, especially so given the homogeneity of products from one shop to the other. The difference now is that so few of the old skills remain, it may be who can react quickest that determines survival. Dumping the jobbers and stocking their shelves the old fashioned way – knowing the product and where it exists in the wild.

Support My ass

In retaliation for being jilted, the small shops band together to make purchasing alliances and serving manufacturers with an extended index finger. Then they’ll opt to leverage Asia as manufacturing juggernaut to purchase low cost shop-branded rods and reels, and import them to our shores along with millions of invasive species – complements of tainted bilge water.

“The minimums are usually around 250 rods per style. If you can justify that quantity, then you can buy your own private label from China.”

The rod making space gets a bit more crowded given the shop-branded rods that reroute the bulk of the rod dollar to the middleman (whose now a rod company) and lacking the loyalties of proprietor and his legion of sales associates, and still stung at being jilted, the manufacturer stares damp eyed as the sales staff point to the cheaper rod, the in-house brand.

The Chinese make a pretty mean rod for $100 wholesale, and I should know as I own five of them already.

They’ll ignore copyright law and the government will let them. All the marketing departments work to invent Superkalifragilistic-XP-alladocious Graphite with its ion-woven crystalline lattice, and how much better it is than any other graphite, they’ll steal immediately. Given their steadfast ignorance of Bill Gate’s Windows copyright (costing Bill into the Billions) just why do you feel you’ll fare any better?

All the tackle will acquit themselves well, and should make enough inroads in the marketing hype to get their own measure of respect.

Which will buy the angling press a little time to grow a pair, given the past “nothing but superlatives” style of review we’ve had to endure. That self-same style adopted just as quickly by the eZines and bloggers so the river of manufacturer freebies flows unimpeded.

The shops aren’t immune to Darwinian law by any means. Given the materials vended are from the same lackluster jobbers, whose rod selection is part shop brand and a few of the commercial variety, whose counter-men are amiable enough but don’t distinguish themselves from the competition, I wonder why I’m expected to be fiercely loyal to some other fellow’s underfunded job fantasy?

… and we should feel really good about it too, anything less is unpatriotic.

You’ve got every Spey and Switch rod ever made, but I don’t do either.

You’ve unloaded all your Grizzly saddles to the salon down the street. Now that I’m darkening your doorway you shrug your shoulders in mock helpless.

I inquire about local conditions and now I’m trying to extricate myself from a full day guide trip, and a new rod, when I only wanted to know which flies to use …

Now guides have a way to cash in on their product expertise and client connections. Pro Guide direct (proguidedirect.com), an online retailer of fly fishing and other gear, offers 15% of a transaction to the guide who refers it.

… and all I’ve found is another SOB with his hand out.

A run of the mil shop lacking in personality and talent, that doesn’t make an effort to get me to return – to “brand” their service as well as their tackle and other offerings, is owed nothing.

I can buy Twinkies anywhere, and they taste the same regardless of their source.

The Game hasn’t changed only prices have

When rods were fiberglass and the Pfleuger Medalist was king, we were out the door for about a hundred dollars, and a full outfit with waders, vest and shoes, was about a hundred more.

Now, we’ve got $800 rods, $400 reels, $200 boots, $700 waders, and a full ensemble is the better part of $3000.

I’d say during that same period, the quality and breadth of most shops has eroded. A couple of movie-based surges in interest, more fish considered fly-worthy, an increase in tackle and the accessories commensurate, and the slow demise of quality staff, as the best of the best opt for guiding where the money is better than tending counter.

What cost only a couple of days pay is now a full month’s paycheck, without a corresponding increase in shop service level. All this in an uncertain economy, where 20% of my neighbors are underwater on their house, whose child just graduated college at wants to move back in, just as they were about to mail their house keys to the bank …

Paradise is modestly priced in 2011 at only $1,995 per week.
It’s a point that resonates in this economy and makes sales easier.

No, Bigtime tackle manufacturer, if you want to break with tradition and eliminate the middleman, you’d better be certain of your clever new business plan, because I’m not going to keep your shops afloat, I don’t owe you or them a farthing.

Especially now that I’ve got two rivers I don’t fish anymore – mostly because of the steady price increases finally caught the eye of the criminal element, and an empty rod tube in the front seat nets us anglers a broken window, the contents of our car rifled and quickly vanished.

No one bitched at Whiting after they bumped prices upward given the massive demand for hair hackle, in fact most applauded – making it one of the few success stories of recent times.

The rest of the industry won’t be so fortunate however, they’ll have to evolve less precipitously to ensure they don’t anger too many at one time, or plunge the entire sector into a free fall price war.

But I don’t owe the three shops in my area a damned thing, given the only thing distinguishing them is their parking.

29 thoughts on “Too big to fail was an interesting experiment, not likely to happen again, which is why Kaufmann’s Streamborn wasn’t bailed out.”

  1. “…as the best of the best opt for guiding where the money is better than tending counter”

    Indeed, I used to run a shop but I liked guiding better. But you know, retail sucks…really sucks. That is what working at most “shops” has become now that its all about profits and less about knowledge and information. I wouldn’t go back if you paid me…yeah that too, retail pay sucks as well and who wants to work every weekend?

  2. A couple of quotes from my dad, who ran a small town pharmacy. “Johnny, you can always make more money.” and ” You’re only as good as your last sale.”. Retail sucks, but long live retail, because that is REALLY what the “free market” is all about, not all the neo-con BS.

    Also, what about the latest crop of custom rod makers and wannabes, which includes me. We are all swimming around in the same pool, trying to find a niche and hoping for success. It doesn’t matter what level, we are mostly fishers and therefore optimists.

    So, why not? Leaving a legacy of something handcrafted to be used and past along, and maybe even making some money…what a concept!?!

  3. You haven’t priced contemporary ‘glass rods, lately, then. With the exception of the Eagle Claw, you’re not getting out for less than $300.

    The Medalist, however, is the still the ultimate bargin.

  4. I guess I’m interested in whether the average angler considers it their responsibility to keep fly shops open, given the manufacturers may kick them to the curb.

    … and why is it our responsibility, given we can go Internet direct as well …

  5. I always go to my local fly shop first. Retailers don’t usually get just “kick to the curb” by suppliers, but also thrown under the bus…why should the consumer do the same thing?
    My shop owner got a really hurt look when I let slip that I was teaching myself to build rods. Little does he know that my goal is bamboo. It was a reminder to me of what a small community the fly fishing world really is!

  6. I’ll use the local shops for the stuff I’ve run out of – and the Internet for the stuff I’m about to run out of … assuming I’m keeping both shops afloat.

    My Internet purchases occur at someone else’s local shop – and doing so gives them a solid.

    I’d spend more locally if the vendor reciprocated, alas, all I get is a hint of a smile – and little else.

  7. Well said.

    I wonder, would it be fair to look at these companies and shake our heads at them the same way we do Wall Street? More money for them, more people on the street.

    In the fly fishing context – higher prices for gear, but are there fewer people on the water? Or even better, how are they spending those profits? Do they support conservation? Is it enough for them to sign on to sign letters asking states, EPA, congress to protect places like Bristol Bay? Should they give more? Some do, some for example generously donated loads of gear to the Bristol Bay Fly Fishing Academy, others are sponsoring fundraising events. But what about the industry as a whole? Fly shops sell trips to great places, places potentially under threat. They sell the gear to fish in those places, as well. Industry benefits from these places, people traveling to them, buying gear to fish them, but how much do they give back? A few do, but is it enough?

    So, do we “owe” shops and industry? Or, do they “owe” it to the sport?

    That is a lot of questions that may or may not make sense. It is early in Alaska and my coffee has not yet fully gone to work on my brain.

    Anyway, great post!

  8. Fly shops will never go away (well, not soon), but a lot of them will disappear, and knee jerk reactions like “support your local fly shop no matter what” are simply an attempt to maintain an unwieldy, cost-laden infrastructure that isn’t particularly sustainable (especially once you add the reps into the mix).

    I’m also often amused by references to how a dark, malevolent “Internet” is putting local fly shops out of business. The Internet is a bunch of plumbing; somebody out there is recognizing a business opportunity and capitalizing on it, and like any business (mine included), you have to adapt or die.

    If a shop or online retailer goes direct to a China (bypassing a US-based firm and a rep or distributor) then they get the whole vigorish, and there exists an economic reality there which simply can’t be ignored.

  9. @ss – the Rise rod company comes to mind, one of the new “Chinese” upstarts. $239 for a graphite rod with an extra tip, 20% of which is donated to conservation.

    Here’s all these traditional companies making noise about 1% For the Planet – when the upstarts have neatly removed their thunder.

    Sure, it’ll be a awhile for 20% of a startup to equal 1% for Sage, but if the tackle is worthy, it won’t be as long as Sage thinks …

    These newer vendors appear more in tune with the issues we face today, than the 100 year old companies intent on having adequate drink coasters for the Xmas shopping rush.

  10. @Darwin – I am continually surprised that most don’t realize the evil Internet is merely someone else’s local shop that’s smarter, faster, leaner, more tech savvy …

    If the established companies don’t recognize the game as fundamentally altered, its not my fault.

  11. These newer vendors appear more in tune with the issues we face today, than the 100 year old companies intent on having adequate drink coasters for the Xmas shopping rush.

    I’m crying foul. You’re pointing at Orvis, who has thrown more money at conservation issues than pretty much anyone in the fly fishing space save perhaps Patagonia, so while they’re fair game in other areas, this is one where I think they deserve better than your giving.

    I could name a decent handful of “top” fly fishing companies who have done very little for the sport (or the landscape) save those items they feel could generate PR or even a competitive advantage. I figure they’re the ones that should be singled out for a whipping.

    They receive damned few mentions on my site.

    Also, be careful about apples to oranges comparisons; Rise is donating 20% of *profits*, while 1% for the Planet is straight revenue.

    I don’t want to minimize what RISE is doing, but given the realities of a startup in a recession, it could be years before conservation causes see a dime from them…

  12. Actually I wasn’t thinking about Orvis, I was thinking of most of the monied “lifestyle” companies that want to play in this outdoor fad thing …

    Our beloved sport has always had a history of Eddie Bauer, Aberchrombie & Fitch, luxist, glamper companies following hot onto our boot heels, Orvis being only the latest incarnation.

  13. I like your article/post a lot.

    Most shops think they are owed something, as do most brands. In reality, both are responsible for creating demand, and in a world where consumers are now accustomed to frictionless buying online, it is up to both constituents to find creative ways to compete. The facts are that 20% of fly shops went out of business last year – this trend will continue. The survivors can thrive, but they will need to engage their customers in more creative and experimental ways…they need to find relevant ways to be in front of them and be memorable. They need: newsletters, blogs, effective email campaigns and more. Unfortunately, owners of small shops in cottage industries usually do not have the tools.

    I would encourage you to check out ProGuideDirect.com where we offer the small shops AND the guides a way to remove the friction from product recommendations. Every gear recommendation is ready to be purchased whether your customer is planning a trip to Argentina or to The Madison. Every purchase yields pure profit for both the shop and guide.

    Let’s continue to find ways to innovate and have the shops and guides thrive vs. wait on the sidelines and complain about everyone else.

  14. Over the past few years I have often thought about cashing in my chips to open a fly shop. Small footprint. Only enough stock on the shelves to not make it look vacant or out of business. I’d stock five different types of flies in four sizes and would be as curmudgeonly as possible.

    Of course, it would only be a front for a kick butt internet business and I would sit and enjoy my view of the water while I satisfied customers globally. I would be one of those local fly shops that you gave your internet business to.

    Any fly shop that hasn’t invested in building a reasonable internet business is doomed. Especially if they’re one of those shops the is either the only shop on an out of the way river or one of five on a popular river. These guys could be having their cake and eating it too but the state of an average fly shops website is embarrassing. My fourteen year old son builds better websites.

  15. @ Steve Z – gimme your sons website and email… All kidding aside, you’re right! I was a little busy the past few days, so I couldn’t post a similar reply.
    I started an Internet business in another industry before it was easy or important. It sure is today!
    This post and commentary are every topical.a

  16. When some local fly shops started hawking their hackles to salons after complaining to the manufactures for doing the same, I lost intrest in suporting them at all. Show none, get none. Beside, any shop within driving distance of me is long gone.

  17. Wow, I smell a lot of hatred. As owner of a small fly shop in Florida for the last 15 years, I consider myself to have the best job on the planet. I get to hang out with some of the finest anglers in the area. Learn what is working and what isn’t. Pass on the info. I order inventory according to what is needed (except grizzly hackle.) I am in the shop 60 hours a week, and admittedly it is hard to pay the bills some months. But it is a great life. All you crusty articulates, just keep ordering from me on the internet and thank you for the business!
    By the way, you don’t owe me a living, nor do you owe anyone else a living, but why the hated for the local shop. Beat your chest with your dollars, and stretch them as far as you can. And every dollar you spend is an economic vote. And you should vote without guilt. With that in mind, I will teach the kids in the area to fly cast anyway. I will donate to CCA Florida anyway. I will donate to FFF Florida anyway. I will teach Fly Tying to anyone I want to. And I will pick up the trash at the boat ramp-every day may hand will pick it up. Just try to stop me from enjoying the fly fishing life. And did I mention that I have the best job on the planet?

  18. Interesting post.

    The shops face a lot of challenges, many caused by their manufacturing partners who are constantly creating new products (ok variants) inthe hopes of further segmenting the market so they can grab a niche. All this creates demand that the shops cannot meet because they can’t afford to inventory all the SKUs – assuming of course that the manufacturer ever delivers them.

    The most convenient, most practical solution is of coyrse to repair to the Internet. For me at least, availability is as much an issue as price.

    When price is an issue, I repair to eBay where amazing things and values are to be found courtesy of my fellow fisherman.

    There are also some very, very smart online retailers out there. One runs a FlyMarket. The genius here (whether entirely deliberate or not) is multi-fold. First, it gives people a reason to return to the site – the biggest challenge in Internet retail. It provides a service to its tying customers and its fishing customers by making cutting edge designs availsbke. Because its ll shipped from the tyer, the site avoids inventory and clearances on failed designs. The market actually works as a market so supply is based on demand.

    But for me the real aha is that the market is an extraordinary showcase for what can be done with the tying materials that they sell. This is just plain smart.

    While I am creeping into tying, this has been the year to build a new flybox (plural of course). One store, by simply taking the time to label the flies (there were many, some quite similar) has earned my loyalty. Along the way, they have saved themselves expensive customer support dollars in refilling orders I was sure were incomplete. And they managed to do this offering a broad inventory at a very fair price, all backed by good packing and fast shipping. Oh, and yes this is the Internet side of an establshed shop.

    You can sum this all up by saying that as always in business you have to innovate which commands a premium; or provide a great me-too product at a
    great price, or educate your customers – especially in a passion industry like this, or just provide exceptional service – which takes a profit to support. And it doesn’t hurt to figure out how to ship overseas, thus considerably widening your
    storefront.

    I do have one pet peeve that as cost sone shops hundreds of dolkars – ut costs very little to maintain a shopping cart instead of flushing it. Please consider that it can take hours, often over several days, to build an order. When I come back to an empty cart, it’s generally for the last time…

    So to paraphrase a favorite ad campaign, here’s to those who think different – and think about how to delight me. Why would I CHOOSE to shop anywhere else?

  19. @16Orange – It’s not hatred I’m espousing, more like contempt that a magazine aligned with manufacturers is suggesting I keep the shops alive while they invent ways to circumvent the shop from making a dollar.

    It’s not our responsibility to keep an underfunded poor quality shop afloat.

    Remember as anglers we’re all different. Some might only salt water fish, some may think fly casting for carp as gross and disgusting. Take that same vantage point with shops, and you realize that many of us have different ideas of what makes a great shop …

    The only constant among all of us anglers is the degree of service the shop provides. They all have the same inventory (roughly) – so it’s the depth and quality of local knowledge and the willingness to share it that makes one shop excellent and another, less so.

    If I’m treated well with an outpouring of local knowledge, if the guy treats me the same when I’m buying three spools of thread – or a brand new rod, then I’ll reciprocate with intense loyalty.

  20. I Just shop at Leland. They are good people and have brought the local fly shop on-line.

  21. While I agree with all you say viz shops products, pricing etc I kinda thought that the vocal desire by some (fly fishers rather than the trade I should think) to persuade us to look after and help out our local fly shops was more to do with some romanticized image of “community.” The fly shop then being the equivalent of the local pub we don’t want converted to Irish themes or the coffee house Starbucked into uniformity. There is already this out-of-a-mold type in the TCO fly shops, which, inside, look just like an internet shop. In this view we would like our local fly shop to continue being the place we buy some thread for the rent but go mainly to chew the fat, steal a coffee and listen to fat, grizzled old farts with their trousers belted at their chests sitting around arguing the toss about some fly fishing arcania. As I say a romanticized view (not least because the old farts are more likely to being talking about their prostrate) but one many of us might wish into existence.

  22. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the irreverent article and the postings it generated. However, it is important to note that the editor’s comment that spawned this discussion, “Maybe we should all wake up and smell the coffee”, was written in a professional magazine to an audience of fly fishing shops(not consumers), suggesting that they (dealers) man up and support the manufacturers that support the sport, resources and industry.
    While there is a thin tread of logic that connects it all to the angler , Keith’s Fenwick analogy only proves the point that has most fly shops up in arms. It isn’t pricing, the internet, margins, or technology; it’s over-distribution that threatens most fly shops. Yeah, Fenwick, in the 80’s was the Sage of their day but (contrary to what has been suggested) when they moved to the Big 5’s, K-Marts, and gas stations, they soon lost the support of the professional shops and Fenwick has largely disappeared in fly fishing. The same scenario is now unfortunately happening to the brands that replaced them, and for the same reasons.
    The simple fact is that fly fishing is both a sport limited by its resources and an industry limited by its audience.
    Brick & Mortar fly shop owners would argue that their influence drives interest, education, and both supports and fuels the sport. Most would propose the argument that their support created the modern iconic brands. Manufacturers suggest their new & improved products and their advertising spawn business growth, and Big Box stores would argue that their prices generate sales. But only an idiot would suggest that there are more streams to fish in the new millenium, or more fly fishermen out there doing it.
    The fly fishing industry and all the shops will, in the end (and as has been suggested), get exactly what they earn through a combination of good business management, service, pricing, and attention to technology. However, if the resource and (then) the audience continues to shrink neither Ho Chi Pfleuger, Sage, or Able will be interested in making fly fishing equipment and the only application for the Sixth Finger will be trimming nose hairs. None of it will make any difference if we don’t wake up and smell that coffee”!

  23. (I just posted this screed over at Trout Underground, I thought I’d share it over here, too…)

    I like local fly shops, in “destination” locations. But they need to be smart if they’re going to survive.

    Things I think they should keep in mind:

    Most fly fishers don’t go to these places to buy their rods and reels. They already own a few. I personally wouldn’t consider buying a new rod or reel on the spot from a retailer unless I broke mine on the stream. As a rule, I don’t come to a fly fishing destination to test drive rods. I come to fish.

    Hence, that’s a part of their inventory that the owners shouldn’t over-invest in. Since destination locations attract a lot of travelers, what rods they do carry should mostly be multi-piece and ideally suited for the home waters. Different places get different clienteles, but my advice would be to not go overboard with high-dollar prestige rods. It’s a buyer’s market for fly rods these days. That’s the nature of things- modern rods are very durable, and easily available in serviceable condition on the used market.

    Rods and reels should also be offered for rent. There’s a pretty good margin on that.

    Instead of rods and reels-for high dollar inventory, emphasize things like wading boots, shoes, and waders. This being the era of Preventing Unwanted Flora&Fauna Invasions, that’s where I’m putting my big-ticket money these days- multiple pairs of rubber-soled&cleated boots. (A cobbler service to convert old felt-soles to Vibram would probably make someone with the skills a neat chunk of change , incidentally.)

    Come to think of it, these days fly shops should seriously consider renting good rubber-soled cleated boots to their customers, by the day. Like a bowling alley, or a ski shop. Rent the boots, and sell gravel guards if they’re needed. Then disinfect and dry each pair on return.

    I can think of a couple of times just in the last month when I would have gone for a deal like that (instead, I returned to the same stream where I had been fishing, in my wet boots, even though I would have rather fished a different stream.)

    In fact, I think any fly shop owner who doesn’t experiment with that idea is missing a very good bet.

    You’re welcome.

    Here’s another service that fly shop owners could provide for a price- charging customers to spool up their reels with lines and leaders that have been purchased elsewhere. I’m serious. Spooling the proper amount of backing and line on a given reel and/or competently nail-knotting a leader butt is a seriously time-consuming and even frustrating task for many anglers. And $10 isn’t too much to charge for a service like that. That might be less than what you’d make from selling a fly line (which you’d offer to spool up for free, if you’re like most fly shop owners)- but it’s all profit, for maybe 15 minutes work.

    I think that most fly shop owners should realize that flies and terminal tackle will be the mainstay of their operation. They either pay the bills by attracting enough consumer dollars with those small-ticket purchases, or they won’t make it.

    As a consumer, my way of supporting local destination fly shops is to always stop in and pick up some flies. I prefer well-tied local patterns. Even someone who ties their own will often find that patterns customized for local waters are an improvement.

    And I have an implicit rule about asking people behind the counter for advice about conditions, hatches, techniques, etc.- I don’t do it unless I drop at least $20 in the store. And I always ask 😉

    I try to spend more like $50, which isn’t hard to do in a fly fishing shop. I don’t mind the usual retail markup premium on tippet or flies at all. I especially like it when I can find premium or specialized items that I don’t find in larger stores, like Stroft tippet, Amnesia, or unusual fly lines, like the Teeny lines. I know I can buy that stuff on-line, but I’d rather not do mail order for items that get used up and require repeated re-ordering.

    Another way that fly shop owners can make money is by selling a little bit of light backpacking stuff on the side. And some food goodies and beverages are also a good idea- protein shakes, soft drinks, jerky, trail mix, etc. My guess is that you’d make more money on that than by signing a consignment deal with a big-ticket rod dealer (who, if the rumors are to be believed, would prefer to be selling direct mail-order anyway!)

    You have to think like your customers- and that shouldn’t be too difficult. There’s more to a day on the stream than fly fishing gear- it’s also important to have things like gear-safe insect repellent, gear-safe sunscreen, band-aids, toothbrushes, flashlights (I like the hand-crankers), towels, blankets, rain suits and ponchos, gloves, thermoses, spare socks, propane…you can buy some of that stuff by the case at a local Dollar Store. Go on and mark it up. People like me forget the items on that list all of the time, and we don’t want to spend time and gas money tracking down the local big-box store to buy it, especially when we’re practically on the stream. We don’t even particularly want to walk down the block to a drug store for it.This is especially true for those of us from out of town.

    Think like this: you aren’t just a fly fishing gear place; you’re a one-stop Day Trip Excursion Center.

    Also: you really don’t need a lot of floor space to have a well-stocked shop.

    Just a few thoughts…

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