A Return to Brick-and-Mortar?

Make no mistake, most fishing tackle purchases do still occur at brick-and-mortar locations, but for more than a decade the industry has also witnessed a rise in the number of anglers that are looking to the Web when stocking their tackle boxes.

A Return to Brick-and-Mortar?

One of the themes that I have touched on repeatedly in this column is the long-term shift in angler shopping behavior towards online shopping. Make no mistake, most fishing tackle purchases do still occur at brick-and-mortar locations, but for more than a decade the industry has also witnessed a rise in the number of anglers that are looking to the Web when stocking their tackle boxes. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated this shift towards online shopping, in many cases forcing anglers to look to online outlets for fishing supplies due to store closures or travel restrictions. However, the past couple of years have seen things largely return to normal in the United States, giving anglers the option to revert to their pre- pandemic shopping behaviors. Have anglers done this, or has the industry witnessed a paradigm shift towards online shopping for fishing tackle?

To explore this question in more detail, we’ll once again turn to Southwick Associates’ online panel of anglers who regularly share information on their fishing activity and purchases at AnglerSurvey.com. Anglers are asked to share information on each purchase, including whether that item was bought online or at a brick-and-mortar store. Exploring anglers’ shopping behavior in 2021, when the pandemic was still largely a factor across much of the U.S., versus 2022, when the pandemic was posing much less of a public health crisis, reveals some interesting insights.

Fishing rods are one category where in- store sales were stronger in 2022 compared to 2021. It appears that anglers are returning to stores to buy rods, which is logical in several ways. Rods are an item that many anglers want to hold and feel before deciding whether to make a purchase. Factors like weight and flex are extremely important considerations which are hard to gauge when making an online purchase. Reels also saw a slight shift toward in-store sales in 2022, though not as strong as the shift seen for rods. The difference may be due to more limited selection in the reel category, with a few brands that have very strong customer loyalty dominating that market. If customers already know which brand they will purchase, there’s less of a need to visit the store and hold the item in their hand.

Clothing was another category that experienced a shift towards in-store purchases. Again, this is a category where customers want to feel the material and assess the fit, something that’s difficult to do while shopping online. Fishing footwear especially saw a big shift back towards in-store shopping, as finding a comfortable fit can be nearly impossible without trying on the item.

Overall, there was a general shift toward more in-store purchases in 2022 versus 2021, but this trend did not hold true across the board. Lures and baits were a category that did not experience a strong shift away from online shopping. In fact, both hard and soft baits both experienced very little change in the percent of purchases made online in 2022 compared to 2021. Many terminal tackle categories also showed this same trend of online shopping rates staying relatively high in 2022. This suggests that customers have less of a need to hold these items before deciding on a purchase. Price could certainly be a factor, as these tend to be much lower-priced items compared to the products mentioned above.

Another consideration is the availability and selection of fishing tackle available in brick-and-mortar stores versus online stores. During the pandemic, supply chain issues led to widespread shortages of tackle at many stores. This led anglers to look online for certain items, especially lower priced consumable goods that need to be purchased on a regular basis. As supply chain issues have eased and retail availability has returned to normal, many anglers are returning to stores to make certain purchases. However, the online shopping trend is not going away, and retailers need to be aware of this. If you do not have a website, consider adding one and reminding your customers that it’s an easy way to stock up on items they go through quickly. Also be sure to advertise your in-store availability of items like rods and clothing that anglers are interested in holding or trying on before making their purchase.

As always, there is much more information available regarding online shopping behavior and the greater fishing tackle market than can be shared here. To learn more about where anglers are making their purchases via detailed market reports, or to gain custom insights to help your business grow, please contact Southwick Associates at Nancy@SouthwickAssociates.com, or visit www.southwickassociates.com.

** This article originally appeared in the July issue of Fishing Tackle Retailer.