This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

January 12th, 2004

Success or Failure?

Every once in a while a piece of equipment dies and a new one has to be obtained. This week our slide scanner bit the dust. My husband, Castwell, took the slide scanner, the CPU, software and all the various cables down to Omega1 Computers. Omega1 does the service on all our computer stuff, including our web servers over in Seattle. They tried a bunch of things and finally pronounced it dead. They did not have a slide scanner in their store, so Castwell went over to Best Buy. There were ten scanners which would do the job. The one he bought had a $50 rebate, a flatbed that scans slides too, and many times better than the old one. In fact the photo on the front/main page this week of Leon Chandler was done with the new scanner. We bought the old one used, from Al Campbell, who had upgraded his system. The original cost on it was around $600.

The new one, vastly superior, with rebate was about $100. Incredible.

Or is it?

The lower cost is a direct result of improvements in technology and something called competition.

There are some interesting comments on our Bulletin Board regarding the "Big Companies Scared?" and "Fly Shops." The opinions are about evenly split on whether catalog outfits, Cabalas in particular, should be selling Sage and Simms products; and if that affects the local fly shop. There were more than a few comments indicating people weren't thinking any further than the end of their nose. Maybe not that far.

The Fly Shop topic is again split between arrogant yuppie stores and those who take the time and interest in their potential customer to create an ongoing relationship. I have no way of knowing what your fly shop is like, even if you have one in reasonable driving distance. But I do know things are changing in the fly fishing industry. Smaller, perhaps marginally profitably manufacturing companies are being bought by larger companies who will either turn those small companies into profitable ones, or drop them. It has already happened with some which 3/M Scientific Anglers purchased. One purchased in that deal bought itself back and expanded. That is Rainy's Flies. While I do occasionally hear complaints that one of the purchased companies isn't what it was, for the most part they are more than they were!

This trend toward consolidation isn't going to end any time soon. In real business, losers aren't given a pat on the head and told "it's ok" - they go out of business. Any business which has survived over three years will probably be fine, unless they are in debt up to their eyeballs.

Just because a person has a great idea and knows how to produce, it doesn't mean their business sense and/or expertise is equal to the demands of business.

The same applies to fly shops. How many guys have as their dream owning a fly shop on some neat piece of water? They may be excellent anglers, great tyers, treat the customers with respect and interest - but - what do they know about merchandising? Buying? Paying taxes? Hiring employees? Managing cash-flow?

Are they willing to give FREE classes on tying? Rod building? Casting? All of which bring dollars into the store, as well as create a loyal customer base. The unfortunate thing is there are a lot of shops run by guys with the dream who don't have a clue about business - and they go under.

Does or should the Internet constitute unfair business practices? Having a brick and mortar store does not mean the shop can't have a good website - with ecommerce. Let's face it, a local fly shop has a limited number of customers. Once the shop has sold all the attorneys and doctors high end fly rods, the pickings get slim. Following 9/11 those shops who depended on travel to exotic places to pump up sales were hit hard. Now, two years later, the travel industry is just beginning to see real improvement.

So if you are sitting in your underwear some evening after your local store has closed and you're thinking about a new fly reel, doesn't it make sense for the store to have a website where you can check it out? Isn't that considered 'service?' Aren't you personally more likely to shop where you get service? Wouldn't you rather purchase that reel locally - even if it is off their website? After all, if there is a problem you can actually go in and talk to them.

Or is it price? If price is the number one consideration, make sure you add up handling and shipping charges before you place the order. There may not be that much difference in price! Major companies do have agreement/contracts as to what the retail price should be. And frankly, if I find something remarkably below what I know should be the price I am suspicious as heck.

There are more excellent high-end rods right now than any time in the history of fly fishing. There are more really fine moderate-priced rods now than at any time in the history of fly fishing - and there are more really good entry level rods right now than at any time in the history of fly fishing. Why?

Because of competition. If those rods, in all categories were not selling, guess what? They would be gone! It is competition which has driven the quality up and prices down. The companies producing them must also have excellent customer service - or (one more time) they will be gone.

I am not particularly a big Cabalas fan, although we do have some shirts we bought there years ago which are still great. But I do know their story, the two brothers started out with a mail-order flier and did the business from their kitchen table. They grew the business out of cash-flow and have been enormously successful. Hurrah for them. If they can offer their customers a wider variety of products that's terrific. They bought into providing their catalog on the Internet early and grabbed another slice of the market. That's called having business sense.

Be aware they have competition too! There are several stores with similar product lines, some are also doing catalogs, and some are also on the Internet. There isn't a free ride for any of them.

Some stores will go to great lengths to get your business. Remember Castwell buying the new scanner? Best Buy here is open 24 hours a day. Is that going to extremes to get your business?

Maybe not. Customer service comes in many forms.

How about the Sponsors here on FAOL? This website is their gift to you.

Before you trash companies, fly-shops or websites make sure you are not just turning a blind eye toward progress. It is how we got here! ~ The LadyFisher

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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