December 4th, 2006

Charging For Classes
By James Castwell


Several years ago there was a fly shop a few miles from here that was part of a much larger sporting goods store. Not a chain, just a local place, well known and thought of in the community for a long time. The 'fly shop' part had been a recent innovation, riding the crest of the 'movie' and reflecting the interests of the son of the owners of the store. He needed a job, was very interested in fly fishing and so the fly-shop part developed.

Every winter they would have a fellow teach an evening fly tying class. The store was open until nine so the classes started at seven and ran until closing time. The store didn't charge anything for the classes even though they featured a pretty well known instructor and author of a fine book on fly fishing.

But he did charge for his tying classes. He didn't sell anything, just charged for his time teaching. Not much as I remember, maybe ten bucks a person for six nights. Of course the fly shop was open during his classes and if any of the students needed anything they could buy it. Not from the instructor, from the guy running the fly shop at the time.

The store didn't charge anybody anything, except for materials and so forth. The instructor got a nice place to teach and got all the money for his efforts. He collected all his own fees. It was a fine arrangement, seeming to satisfy everyone.

I think it's proper for anyone teaching fly-tying, fly-casting, fly-fishing or fly anything else to charge and be paid for it. It is when double-dipping takes place that I get disappointed. By that I mean a fly shop that charges for classes and the materials necessary to utilize them. I can side with a shop which might charge for a six evening tying class and included in the price is all the materials needed and the use of a vise and all the tools as well.

It is here that sometimes keeping an eye on the bottom line blurs the view of the top line. If the first goal is making sure the bucks roll in, then sometimes the quality of the classes tends to suffer. There are a few shops that still offer tying and casting classes at no charge except for any materials used but not many.

Offering free classes is a great clientele builder, but most feel it reflects poorly on their image and that must be promoted at all costs. Heavens forbid the fly shop owner would suffer image damage. Giving something away most certainly could do that. After all, if the classes are nearly exorbitant, they must be really good. Sometimes it's just the chance to 'rub elbows' with the great and 'near great.'

For a fly shop to actually give free casting lessons and hope the attendee's might actually buy something from the shop would be just too much to ask. They might run home and buy new rods off the Internet or from Wally World. True. They might. Make sure you make so much off of them that it won't matter if they buy rods, reels lines and other goodies someplace else. Get yours first. Even better. Get yours and then make a profit on what they buy from you too.

Once, I remember a shop offering a substantial discount to any class members on things they bought. Forty percent I think it was. The problem was that some of the things they sold were 'fair traded,' no discounts allowed or they would lose their supplier. It all gets very complex. What do they charge for and how and why? If a fly shop gives a free casting clinic and a guy wants to buy a rod he fell in love with and the shop gives him a discount, should that fly shop lose its dealership? Or how about a fly reel? Same question. And, yes there are manufacturers out there who will do this.

So the fly shop must charge the full price or lose it's dealership. No way around it. Or is there. Other free things. Done all the time. Who hasn't bought a reel and fly line and had the backing thrown in and installed at no charge. Here is another way things are done, or can be done. Not used as often but if a shop really wants to get around things they will take in trade-in's. Allow far more for the traded in item than it is really worth. Always a way around things...if they really want to.

Remember. These are things your local fly shop might be able to do. The big-box guys? Not a chance. Of course your local fly shop can't do anything if not given the chance. ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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