6 Things Fishing Could Learn from the Outdoor Industry

No business worth its salt gets anywhere without being open to learning new things. And sometimes, the best way to do that is to take a look outside the market you operate in and see how other industries do it. Whether they’re similar or far removed, there are always lessons to be learned. This is something that came into focus for me in the last few years as I expanded my own reach outside of fishing tackle and into the camping and general outdoor industry. Many things are the same, but there are always little nuances that you can pick up and translate into your business. Something as small as a minor change in attitude can bring you big rewards. 

There are plenty of fishing tackle shops out there which set a great example, but as the saying goes: every day is a school day. So let’s examine a few things that might help to expand your way of thinking from the camping and outdoor industry.

Cross pollination

You’ve been an angler your whole life, your business is angling, you eat, sleep and breathe fishing – but could that mean you’re guilty of ignoring other markets with crossover that could be helping your business grow? Cross pollination is something outdoor stores do very well – by their very nature they don’t pin themselves down to one specific hobby or activity. It’s not unusual to see stock covering sports in the double figures in the average outdoor store. Could you be stocking tents and camping gear? Would there be mileage in having some hiking equipment? Or even other watersports?

According to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF), the top crossover activities for anglers are cycling, camping and running with 43.6%, 42.4% and 29.7% participation rates respectively.

Why not tap into some of these markets and help consumers get all their gear in one place? Lose your rigidity and gain new customers.

Make it an experience

Some retailers make visiting them just as much of an experience as actually going out and doing the hobby they sell inventory for. One example I love here in the UK is outdoor brand Alpkit, which has a couple of retail stores in National Parks. In its stores you can grab a free coffee, dogs are welcome, there’s free WiFi, you can try before you buy, there’s repair stations for clothing and bicycles and the staff are local and full of advice on places to go to enjoy the outdoors. The dedication to providing a welcoming and friendly shopping experience comes naturally to some of these places, and while many fishing stores do the same, I think visiting an outdoor shop with this kind of outlook could definitely open your eyes.

Tell your story

Almost every place that sells outdoor gear is great at storytelling. This is how you sell the dream to your customers, how you ignite their inspiration, and how you ultimately make more sales. One really easy way to do this is to have a blog. Get your staff to blog about their fishing adventures, or better still find a well-known angler or one of your better customers to write them for you. You can plan these around key dates in the fishing calendar to help give your sales a boost. They don’t need to be long, they don’t need to be Shakespeare – they just need to get your customers excited. Check out Blacks, Feral or REI Co-Op for some good examples.

Seasonal shows

Fishing is a seasonal business – there is a peak in the summer of course, but there’s also different species and disciplines you can target in the colder months. While ICAST is up there among the best trade shows in the world, wouldn’t it be cool to have a winter show too? Outdoor Retailer has been working this two shows for two seasons move for a while now and it seems to really be working. The last summer show attracted almost 8,000 retailers from more than 60 countries while the winter show welcomed more than 1,400 brands. Each show has targeted markets and also works according the business cycles of designing and manufacturing product. Imagine a winter fishing show with specials on things like ice fishing, and also at a quieter time of year, if you can’t afford to be out of the shop in the summer? It’s worth a thought.

Girl power

There have been fantastic strides in fishing to make it more of a welcoming arena to female participants in the last decade or so. But it is still lagging way behind the outdoor industry. The latest figures from the RBFF put female angler participation at about 12% of all anglers. In the outdoor trade, the split between men and women participants is 54% to 46% (according to the Outdoor Industry Association). How can we continue the upward trend for fishing? Make your store welcoming for all. Hire a mix of male and female staff, run more fishing taster courses, use shop displays showing women being badass and catching fish. After all, if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.

Try before you buy

I don’t see this often in the fishing industry, but in many outdoor stores there is the opportunity to hire kit so you can get a feel for the type of thing you want to use before you part with your cash. Not only is this a great way to convert potential sales into cash in the till, but it is also a great way to tempt new people to try out fishing. Imagine a guy trying to get his kid or wife into fishing, they could hire a rod and reel set-up from your store for the weekend, have an amazing time and then come back next week to buy a kit of their very own. Going down this route eases people in a lot more than if they had to take a punt buying some kit and then finding out they didn’t really like it that much. California retailer Adventure16 Outfitters is a great example of this.