This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

August 12th, 2002

The Great Race

It's nearly that time of year again. The fall fly fishing tackle show in Denver. This retailers show has been going on for a number of years, under different names and in various cities. But the reason for it has not changed.

It is where manufacturers display their goods and shop owners, (retailers) see the newest, the latest and greatest. Some retailers place their orders for spring at the show, many however take notes, make their lists, then go home and match their available space, stock on hand and budget with the new goodies they have seen.

For manufacturers it is an expensive proposition. Shipping a booth, the stock, paying the bills for airfare, hotel, food, entertainment and the salaries of those working the booth is not cheap. One of our Sponsors who no longer does a booth at the show told us just his shipping costs for the show in Salt Lake two years ago was over $6,000. Just to ship the booth! Some of the manufacturers have very elaborate booths, I can only imagine the cost.

We've been told by many of the manufacturers they cannot possibly recoup the costs of this show. It goes in the budget somewhere as advertising and marketing, and the little guy who buys product is the one who pays as an increased cost of product.

For the shop owner who does attend the show, there is an advantage in that they do get to see most of the new products in one place at one time. On the other hand, eventually a rep from most of the companies will show up with the new products right at their shop. I suppose if one were so inclined to have the newest, latest and greatest you would absolutely have to attend the 'big show'.

But it's not cheap for the shop owner to fly to Salt Lake or Denver to attend the show either. We've attended several over the years, and while we have been able to bring you news of what's happening in the market place, it has always been an expensive thing for us to do. (And since we aren't selling anything, we can't raise our prices to cover it.)

I do have some thoughts about the folks who do make money on this particular show. It's the people who put the show on. When it is all said and done, I suspect they are the only ones making money on it - and that is exactly what their business is, making money by producing these shows.

Okay, so you are a manufacturer and you are going to attend the show as a manufacturer. How do you get the most possible attention for your company? A few years ago a major eastern fly fishing company came out with a "revolutionary new concept" in a rod. They advertised it, and advertised it some more. When it came time for the show there was over 40 identically dressed people all touting the wonderful new rod. The rod was junk, and they revised it a couple of times. I'm not sure if it still exists. But some bought it.

Years ago the unveiling of the new model year of any given car was a major event. Car dealerships went through all kinds of hype, until the big day when that particular new model was introduced. It really was a very big deal. Nothing like it left today.

Well, that's not exactly true. It is to a lesser degree for sure, but it seems like each of the major companies (and some of the minor ones as well) must come out at the show with a new, wonderful, revolutionary rod, line, reel, widget which none of us can live without.

It is true that from time to time there can/may be some really new introduction of materials or perhaps taper created or discovered by a rod company which results in a truly new and superior fishing rod. But in truth I believe that is rare. What we have is a juggling of existing materials, tapers and cosmetics. We do not have, as yet at least, anything really new in fly rods in the last five or six years. And if you are into bamboo, I wonder how long it's been when there was something truly new there either.

How many new fly boxes are there? How many new reels? Carry it on through. . .how many do we really need?

Does the acquisition of all these new goodies improve our fishing - or do we just hope it will? Do we try and substitute new stuff for the acquisition of knowledge which might really improve our fishing? Or improve our casting skills? Nothing wrong with being a consumptive fly fisher, just as long as you can afford it and realize it isn't going to catch more or larger fish.

Unfortunately the cost of promoting and advertising new product does have a bottom line. It is the cost to the consumer. Those companies who advertise heavily to have their name out in front of the parade do become the 'name' companies - and their products are also the ones with the highest price tag.

Fly Anglers OnLine does need Sponsors since we don't sell anything, nor do we charge our readers to access this website. It becomes a two-edged sword because we want to see more people get into fly fishing - yet the price of equipment is a shock to those making the switch from spin or bait fishing to fly fishing. We try and balance who is a Sponsor here by inviting companies who produce good equipment at more than one end of the spectrum. But I fear the cost of attending the big shows, the amount of advertising necessary by manufacturers to gain any market share is so expensive the cost to fly anglers will continue to go up.

Perhaps instead of each of the manufacturers competing for a piece of the same pie (market share) they might instead spend more of that precious advertising dollar into bringing more new people into fly fishing. It strikes me that the efforts being made elsewhere don't seem to be working. Supporting Fly Anglers Online would be a nice step in that direction.

While we want to be able to bring the best information about all aspects of our sport to you, we have made a decision not to attend the 'big show' in Denver this year. We communicate with our Sponsors on a regular basis, and we will bring the new goodies to you - some actually in advance of the Denver retailers show. Stay tuned, we'll have some interesting things for you to see. ~ LadyFisher

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