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

by Deanna L. Birkholm

February 8th, 1998

View from San Mateo

I'm writing this from our hotel room in San Mateo California (USA). The show has ended for this year, and most of the exhibitors are suffering with a minimum of sore feet and stomach upsets from eating less than real food at regular hours. Some, like the gentleman who was on the shuttle back to the hotel tonight, will go on to another show opening next Thursday.

The term sometimes used to describe salesmen is really better to describe the people doing the various trade and sportsman shows - road warrior. The gentleman I mentioned is about a third of the way through his show schedule, a total of sixteen shows.

JC flew out to do the Somerset NJ show last weekend, arrived home at 11:00 p.m. Monday night, and we flew out the very next morning at 11:00 a.m. for the San Mateo ISE Sportsman Show. That is not an unusual schedule for the folks doing these shows.

Maybe you have attended one of these shows, but here is an inside look at what goes on from the exhibitors side.

In our case, the "show box" containing the fly rods, reels and signage for the booth had to be air-freighted from New Jersey to California. Shipped on Monday for Tuesday delivery. (The show opened on Wednesday.) I don't know what it cost, and I'm afraid to ask. It arrived on time safe and sound. The rod racks did not. With some phone calls and tearing of hair, the boss finally got them delivered on Sat. In the mean time, the rods were leaned against the wall. Certainly not the best way to show fine fly rods.

The booth itself was in a corner, and somehow the arrangements for the "decorating" as it is called were shuffled and did not get done. When a company rents space at a show, it usually is in some large building, and is divided into individual booths with curtains hung on telescoping rods. Such a booth is called "draped." A single booth at the San Mateo Show cost $850. Some companies had 2 or 3 booth spaces to make a single show space. I think you do get electrical outlets included. At some shows that is extra.

A table, with a skirt, carpeting and chairs are all part of the "decorating." I don't recall the total, but one chair is rented for $75 for the duration of the show - in this case 5 days. Having a place for the people working the show to sit down is great, and certainly appreciated by those who stop by your booth too! Many booths have commercially designed and fabricated booths which almost magically disappear into a small shipping container. These often have huge logos or photographs of places and fish we all wish we could visit. Cost for these vary, but usually run in the thousands, not hundreds of dollars.

If for some reason the weather doesn't co-operate, or the location of your booth doesn't get good traffic the time, effort and money is wasted. The show operators charge the same amount regardless of where the booth is located. Sometimes you win big, or lose big. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground.

Add to the general show costs, airline tickets, hotel rooms and food for whomever is working the the booth. It can be very expensive. And the fly fishing industry, actually the whole outdoor industry is pretty much forced into doing shows. No company has enough reps, and getting the word and your product in the hands of the buying public is tough. So the show circuit is the accepted method. Of course, this all adds to the cost of whatever the product is - including fly rods, fly lines, leaders and anything else related.

Some companies, particularly fly rod companies, don't sell anything at these shows. What they do is show the rods, and try to get folks onto the casting ponds with their rods. It is a part of the business, and is called "dealer support." And if you have a hot customer, you send him on to the local dealer.

We enjoy showing and casting fine rods, and talking with other fly fishers. Shows give us insight into what fly fishers are talking about. . .what interests them . . .what they want to see in the industry. It's a rather unique world, and one where we get to see old friends and hopefully make some new ones.

The San Mateo region is blessed with some very fine casters - no doubt the infuluence of the Golden Gate Casting Club. We even met some casters from the San Diego Casting Club. They drove a long way to be at this show. It is a joy to look across the outdoor casting ponds and see a line of folks all casting nearly perfect loops and lines. A pretty hardy group too - they cast in 35 mile-an-hour winds and pouring rains. Most didn't even put jackets on for the drizzle.

JC has been a sick puppy on this show, but still managed to talk to a lot of people and do a good job for our company. Which is why there is no Castwell column this week. And that's part of the game too. At least a dozen of the people who had been at the Somerset NJ show all came down with some weird rotten flu. Most missed at least one day of the show. One was so sick he flew home, probably infecting everyone on that flight with the roaring crud.

A very special thanks to Garrett Pace, one of Gatti Team USA members. (You may remember him from a fly he did for us on Fly of the Week.) Garrett dug in and picked up the slack when JC was so ill. Garrett is a very fine person, and I recommend him highly as a Montana guide as well. (To reach Garrett, who guides on the Bitterroot, Blackfoot, Clark Fork, and Rock Creek, call 406-777-0358.)

This show is over, the next one for us won't be until the Fly Fishing Trade Show in Salt Lake in September. By then we will have forgotten how tired we are.

What we won't forget was those readers of FAOL who stopped by to say "hi," and those who stayed a while. You made the show for us. ~ Deanna Birkholm

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