Change: The Only Constant

Tough economy. Big Box store moving in. Online sales taking a big bite. Sometimes it seems like the sky is falling … like there’s just no way to win, to make a living, to get ahead.

Stories about other shops closing — shops that have been in business for generations — are commonplace. Maybe you thought those stores would outlast you, outlast their proprietors, but it didn’t happen. They’re gone, and they’re not coming back.

Of course, the sky is not falling. Yes, the stuff about the economy, big box stores and online sales is all true, but if the sky really was falling it would crush everyone — not just you and a couple of other retailers you know.

What’s really happening is that the world is changing. The methods that worked a generation or even a decade ago aren’t so effective anymore. And they’ll never work again because conditions will never be like that again.

And while it’s true that what tackle retailers are facing as an industry is unprecedented, it is truer that change has been constant. Every tackle retailer in history has had to adapt to change. The ones who did it effectively prevailed … or at least survived.

The ones who didn’t are gone.

When I was a kid, just getting into fishing in the early 1970s, I got most of my new gear at Sears. I had to make do with what I had access to, and that was Sears, K-Mart, something called Gold Triangle and a couple of small town hardware stores. I was probably in my teens before I was aware that there were stores out there that sold nothing but fishing gear.

There was big box competition even then, though the giants were generalists and not outdoors specialists. Still, it had to be tough to compete on pricing and selection against the big boys.

In 1974, Johnny Morris put out his first Bass Pro Shops mail order catalog. It was revolutionary. Suddenly, I could see pictures of the stuff that I read about in the outdoor magazines of the day — Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, Bassmaster. Until then, I only half believed that stuff actually existed. Now I could order it … if only I had the money.

Those early Bass Pro Shops catalogs were like online shopping today. They had competitive prices and amazing selection, and I’m certain they took their toll on retailers. But the smart ones survived.

They found their niche in the evolution of the industry. Things were changing — just as they continue to change today — but they adapted and survived. Some even prevailed.

And that can be you. That should be you.

What are you doing to find your niche and adapt to our changing business climate? How are you making your store different and special? Why should I shop at your place?

And what’s your long-range plan? Where do see things in six months, a year, five years? And, more importantly, what are you doing each and every day to get there?

Change really is the only constant. We don’t have to like that, but we do have to deal with it if we hope to survive.

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