A Vote for Authenticity

How do you create regular customers for your tackle shop? It’s a question that every proprietor has asked himself many times, and many answers have been posed. In no particular order, the list of reasons people come back to a tackle store probably looks a lot like this:

  1. Location – if the store is inconvenient, it’s tough to justify the time and energy to go back, no matter the other factors.
  2. Selection – the bigger and better the selection, the more likely anglers will return.
  3. Price – no one wants to get gouged when they buy. Prices need to be somewhere near competitive.
  4. Customer service – the better I’m treated, the more likely I’ll be back. Mistreat me once and fail to correct the situation immediately, and I will never, ever darken your door again. I promise.

If you asked 100 retailers what four qualities are most critical in creating repeat business, I’m guessing that just about all of them would pick some version of those four.

But since this is my column (and I get to pretend that you asked me the question), I’m going to give you another reason that just might outweigh all the others … at least for me.

Authenticity.

It’s a big word (12 letters!), and it carries a lot of weight with me. In fact, the older I get, the more important authenticity is to me. I’m at the point now, where it’s certainly more important than location, selection, price or (within the limits of basic civility) customer service. I will trade any or all of those for a few precious ounces of authenticity.

Why so important? For me, it’s partly because it’s so rare and partly because it’s what I most cherish about the people and places in the world of fishing. To me, “authentic” means legitimate, timely, timeless, personality and expert all rolled into one.

If you think it means old or grungy or weathered, you’re thinking of something very different than I think of when considering authenticity … though I’ve been in some authentic tackle shops that were those things.

If you think it means gruff or old-fashioned or over the hill, you’re still thinking of something else.

A brand new tackle shop can be authentic with the right people and the right stock. An old shop can be as fake as a three-dollar-bill. A wizened old proprietor can sit behind the counter and be completely full of crap or he can have the wisdom of the ages.

I have a couple of pet peeves, but one of them is definitely the loss of authenticity by the institutions that most need it. I put tackle shops in that group.

Whether it’s a restaurant, a shop or a membership organization, it pains me to see authenticity sacrificed in favor of economy … or convenience … or just about anything else.

Based upon my experience, the businesses that choose authenticity over these other things have a better chance of success than those that don’t. They certainly have a better chance of keeping my business.

How’s your authenticity?

A rising tide lifts all boats. Let’s be that tide.