February 28th, 2005

Cottage Industry
By James Castwell


"The winds of time, they are a changing." Don't know about that, in fact, I am not sure they are. Things never remain the same, nothing does. So, the winds are not changing, they are blowing just like always. I was thinking about this today after a phone call from a major manufacturer. By now I am sure most of you know there must be an 'inside channel,' a network of these guys who all know each other and are in nearly constant contact. Well, it may not be that tight but there is communication among us all.

Every year at this time, January through March there is a money crunch. Not just in the fly fishing game but all over our country. Here is how it sets up for our trades though, I may not hit it all but this gets the majority of it.

Starting in the fall fly shop owners and dealers place pre-season orders with the manufacturers. The manufacturers then tool up and produce the goods for delivery in the spring or there abouts. So far this last spring pre-season orders have been light. During the winter retailers put things on sale for the holidays, then when it was over dumped goods on eBay to clear things out. Mostly they did it to bring in cash. Sales are slow for many shops.

Why? You guessed it, 'non' brick and mortar fly shops. Internet fly shops, the ones without a 'hard' address. Guys buying distressed goods and selling them just a bit over their cost. Remember there are just so many buyers/customers. When a fly shop dumps goods, it may be one of his regular customers who buys it. He is helping his own downfall. It is happening still. The prospects are not bright either. I might suggest that in one year from now we will have lost another 20% of the fly shops in the country. Some of those shops would not have survived anyway, but they are speeding up their own downfall - and blaming on anything - or everything else except their own bad business management.

January starts the show season which runs for about three months all across the country. One of the reasons for this is to generate dollars and write more orders. But it is costly to travel around and pay for show space and at a time when cash is tight, but they do it anyway. One of the reasons you can sometimes get a great price on things.

These are not just my thoughts, but are in agreement with several others. I will note too that, some companies are doing very well and so are some fly shops. Kind of a natural thing. Like beans in a jar, shake them up, the big ones always come to the top. This is neither a good thing nor bad, it is simply what it will be. The sport will continue, new goodies will be developed, competition will create product. Supply and demand will regulate prices and goods.

I see an increase in fly-tackle shows, both dealers only and consumer types. These bring in folks and are good over all. Some shows are dwindling, a main one in California is on the ropes, but another is replacing it in another part of the state. We just had one here, Friday Saturday and Sunday. Friday was very light, Saturday was fine and Sunday was poor. Most of those who had booths did not make expenses, but some did well. We were there on Saturday, had a grand time. Lots of people, lots of interest in the equipment and some good sales. Sometimes what happens at these show is the manufacturer will sell directly to the customer his items at wholesale. This of course makes it tough for the local dealer the next week to get the retail price. Or for some time to come.

This disturbs me. I have asked around and here is what I am hearing. The guys are not seeing the kids at the shows. I don't have any answers yet, this word just reached me, but I too have noticed it. This is for the fly-fishing shows remember. I have no information on the 'cross-over' shows, spinning, casting and fly. Maybe they are getting some kids, I hope so. Is it because so many fly fishers tend to be about 45 years old on the average? That is down from two years ago when it was 47. Are the grand kids too small, your kids too old? Perhaps. Needless to say, where are the kids, the seeds we need to continue.

As the pendulum swings back will we return to more of a 'cottage industry?' Maybe. But, those were good times too. Lots of personal involvement between the buyer and seller. Will the big box stores hurt or help? Who knows. Will eBay and the cyber-shops undermine the profit from our toys? Some of it for sure. Even the Internet is bringing back bartering and swapping, not an easy thing to do during the past years. Again, good or bad, who knows. One thing for sure though, things will not remain the same. They are a changing. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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