In a letter dated June 12, 2017, American Rod & Gun announced to its independent dealers that it is discontinuing its dealer program effective August 1. ARG is the exclusive wholesale subsidiary of the Bass Pro Shops family of brands, including RedHead, Offshore Angler and White River Fly Shops.
The full text of the letter follows:
As a valued business partner, I’m writing to inform you that American Rod & Gun is discontinuing its Standard Dealer Program. We made this decision following a routine review of our goals and priorities. After careful assessment, we believe our company can make the biggest positive impact for the outdoor industry by focusing our attention and resources on better serving sportsmen and advancing key conservation initiatives with our outdoor partners.
We deeply appreciate your support throughout our relationship and we’re committed to ensuring a stable transition for your business. With that in mind, we will remain available to service your account through August 1, 2017. You can continue to contact your American Rod & Gun representatives through this time.
We wish you and your business every continued success. Please contact us if you have any questions.
s/ Tim Scott
Director, Direct Marketing & Operations
According to its website (www.ar-g.com), ARG serves over 7,000 independent retail stores in all 50 states and 75 other countries. In addition to the Bass Pro Shops family of brands, they are also a distributor for several major gun and ammo manufacturers, including Remington, Browning and Winchester.
The news has yet to be posted in the ARG site.
FTR contacted ARG and was referred to Jack J. Wlezien, Director of Communications for Bass Pro Group. Wlezien’s office issued the following statement:
When American Rod & Gun started there were very few wholesale sources supplying quality products to independent dealers. Today they have many options and the industry is thriving. Following a routine review of our goals, American Rod & Gun is discontinuing its Standard Dealer Program and will focus primarily on supplying key business and conservation partners to help advance shared conservation priorities. Moving forward we believe we can make the biggest positive impact for the outdoor industry by focusing on better serving sportsmen and advancing key conservation initiatives with our outdoor partners. We value our dealers and are working with each of them to provide a smooth transition for their business.
When asked how ARG served conservation initiatives, Wlezien noted that “ARG has offered wholesale rates to key conservation partners for many years and will continue to do so moving forward.”
Impact on independent dealers
One of Bass Pros’ longest-standing independent retailers is Gary’s Tackle Box (formerly “The Tackle Box”) in Gainesville, Florida. Proprietor Gary Simpson received the letter yesterday (June 20) and was disappointed in the news.
“We were dealer number 903 — now the lowest number in their files,” Simpson said. “We signed on in 1973 and were thrilled to partner with Bass Pro Shops at the time. Back then my job was to order our bass gear, and I loved flipping through those old catalogs. I had a lot of the product numbers memorized and enjoyed talking with the people who took the orders. There was a camaraderie about it, but now I’m feeling a little betrayed.”
Simpson authored the guest column for the November/December 2016 issue of Fishing Tackle Retailer magazine. There he welcomed Bass Pro Shops to his home town — the same town where his store has served the angling community for many decades, the same town where he and the staff of Gary’s Tackle Box make their living.
The column was titled, “When the Giant Comes to Town,” and Simpson told the story of getting on board with the Bass Pro brands in the early ‘70s, adding, “We feel we know Johnny Morris and his Bass Pro Shops, at least a little. They also started small and with a passion for the sport. My feelings toward them are mostly good, and I don’t expect that to change.”
He ended the piece philosophically, “Every small independent shop has foes to fight, but we don’t count Bass Pro Shops among them.”
Now, he says, the sides aren’t so clear. Bass Pro Shops has changed the lineup card, and the independent retailer is no longer on their roster — no longer part of the team.
Ultimately, Simpson is optimistic that the loss of the Bass Pro brands won’t impact his shop very much. “It’s not something that’s going to kill or hurt us terribly,” he says. “There are really only three or four items that I’ll have to scramble to replace. There was a time when those brands mattered a lot more to us.”
After Simpson’s guest column appeared in the pages of FTR, he received a handwritten note from Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris.
“Dear Gary,” Morris began. “Saw what you wrote in Fishing Tackle Retailer. Just wanted to say Thanks and Happy Fishin’.”
“I have to admit it hurts,” Simpson said of ARG’s decision. “It’s almost like having an old buddy tell you that you’re not friends anymore, but you haven’t done anything wrong.”