Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna L. Birkholm

November 30th, 1998


We received a copy of Fishing Tackle Trade News this week. It's a trade magazine, produced for the folks in retail stores who sell fishing tackle. The cover didn't exactly encourage reading it. It was intended to show how unhappy customers are at "marts." There are some interesting 'teasers' on the same cover, "Outsmart the Marts, Give Your Customers the Service They Deserve."

There are some good ideas in this magazine. But if I were an owner of a tackle store, I would be very confused.

Confused over the message running in an undercurrent through the whole magazine. One that is hard to put a finger directly on, that the whole tackle industry seems to be at war with each other. War over percentages of the market, pieces of the pie. Where is the sense of belonging or community?

Sure, business is competitive. But those who succeed usually do so because they really care about their customers, work at having good shops, competent help, fair prices and SERVICE. One neat tackle shop I know, which handled both spin, bait and fly tackle, had local maps posted with what was happening on the streams and lakes. The "where and when" of it. And it worked, folks came back week after week.

What I have seen far too much of, is the local shop owner who wants everyone to think he is "god". . . the guy who is a legend in his own mind.

One such shop owner comes to mind especially. He took a fly casting class and became one of those 'instant experts'. It didn't matter after all that he wound the spinning line on reels backwards, or didn't have a clue about the differences in any reels. He was the expert.

His business has dropped off, and he gave up about half his floor space to another business. And frankly when his business fails, someone will say, "well, the tackle business is sure on it's butt!"

It's not the tackle business. It's not the fly fishing business - although the fly fishing manufacturers sure haven't helped with a glut of greatly overpriced products.

Those shops which have been around long enough to have also been around the block are doing fine. Some have expanded, added travel and mail-order or web shopping. Grown with the times and opportunities.

That is a far cry from the group of fly fishing wannabes who bought or opened shops in the past few years.

Those in particular who following the success of the "movie" watched the growth figures of the tackle industry, a whopping 20 percent right after the movie, and thought that kind of growth could / would be sustainable.

The truth of the matter is that for some that growth has been real! And continues to be real. But it is not realitic business growth. Most businesses are thrilled to have a 3 - to 5 percent growth rate..

And how do they do that? The same, tired old thing we have all heard forever. They work for it. They earn it. They provide the service their customers want. They treat others as they would like to be treated.

Confusing? I am terribly confused. It is so simple, yet so few seem to get it right. The FTTN magazine didn't get it.

Remember the 'teaser' I mentioned at the beginning? "Outsmart the Marts, Give Your Customers the Service They Deserve"? Here is the line that goes with that: "Our Advisory Council Tells you How".

Excuse me! Have business attitudes gotten so bad in this country that a tackle shop NEEDS an "Advisory Council" to tell them how to provide service? How on earth did we get here?
~ Deanna Birkholm

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