Once again something on the FAOL bulletin-board caught
my attention and prompted a few observations. It has to
do with the attitudes sometimes encountered at a fly shop.
Not all by any means fall into this category, but some
do; small, dealer, and pro-shop. None seem to be immune.
I get a trade journal (yes, fly-fishing has them) and
a few months ago there was an article on how to go broke
running a fly shop. I agreed with it then and still do.
Over the past few years there was a near explosion of new
fly shops. The 'movie' had something to do with it as did
several other things. Many went into the business then.
Why not, it was growing by almost 20% a year. Even lousy
management could not screw up a fly shop or a manufacturer
during that period.
I know some folks dream of opening a shop where everyone can
congregate, kind of like 'around the pot-bellied stove'
times of the past. A friendly place with a never-empty
coffee pot, 'good old boys club,' sort of. Quite a few
like that were opened and run just that way.
Before long most of the 'regulars' had bought all the rods
and reels they needed or could afford and were spending
more time than dollars. Wonderful chatter, good advise,
tied some flies and 'hung-out.' Of course, sales volume
dropped off. Lower income demanded that the operational
money for merchandise be aimed at what ever customers
he could find. New customers became the target market;
all the old 'regulars' had all they could use.
What do new customers want? Sure as hell not the $750.00
rods and reels. Now the inventory gets further slanted to
lower end gear. The 'good old boys' for sure don't need
any of that stuff. A spool of tippet, leaders, a line
perhaps and some new nippers. When one of them does
decide they in fact really do want a new high-end rod
or reel, it would have to be ordered.
By this time he has become a 'good buddy' of the owner,
figures he should get a 20% to 40% discount. If he gets
it, guess what, there goes any profit. If he doesn't get
one, he feels slighted. A 'lose-lose' situation for sure.
The atmosphere of the place starts to slide and with it
the original comradery.
When anything new comes along, a rod for instance, the owner
won't put it in, all his money is spent and besides, he has
convinced everyone that (since he is a guru) the current
top end 'widget-deluxe' is the only rod for any right-minded
person to ever own. The owner is not making the fat profit
he expected, in fact his money is tied up with no way to
turn it but by staying open, maybe even at a loss hoping
things will get better.
One day a new guy does come in. The owner needs to 'high-grade'
him if at all possible. Only so many new customers come in,
he needs to make as much from each as possible just to stay
open. The newby is shown to the two or three higher end
rods and reels left in the place. Sticker shock sets in.
Regrouping to the entry level, the owner fixes him up with
a learners outfit with little profit if any (after he loads
the reel with backing or a cheap line and spends an hour
teaching him how to cast the thing.)
The newby feels he is not up to par, he is surely not an
equal with the 'good old boys' lounging around sucking up
the free coffee. They are talking a language that is foreign
to him, Latin words even. Talk about intimidation.
He stretched his budget, knows he got a low-end rig, felt
left out of the chatter, was actually ignored by the
bonded-boys, got some info on a fishing area which may
not prove to be worth much and will not likely return.
So, that is how easy it is to go broke with a fly shop.
There are a few more ways, but that one is guaranteed
Where can fly fishers find a place where they can 'bond,'
that doesn't depend upon them buying stuff, where the new
guy is even welcomed by the 'old timers? A joint that is
always open, where he can find the comradery and
companionship he needs? Where can he find pretty
good information on where to fish, what fly to use,
even how to tie it? Where can he find what we all
think a great fly shop should have, but rarely does?
I'm sure you have caught on to me by now. Sure, this is
the place, right here at FAOL. That is why this thing is
growing so fast. The attitudes of the gang in the chat-room
are most cordial. Talk about a welcome, that actually is
the job of the 'Host' to make sure all are welcome, the
first time and every time thereafter. And they are glad
to do it. They are part of the gang too.
Those who use the bulletin board are the same way. Ask
a question and stand back. The answers come pouring in,
everyone is eager to help in any way possible. You ought
to see our email, the glowing 'atta-boys' make us blush.
Read the Guest Book.
Attitudes? You bet these guys have attitudes, and we
love them for it.
~ James Castwell