Dealing With Empty Shelf Syndrome

During the pandemic commencing in January of 2020, the most prominent sign of the times was noticeable stock outs and semi-barren shelves and empty peg hooks.

Adding more customers in the absence of more merchandise does little to improve your gross margin dollars. In the course of writing these columns, I do a lot of store visits…and what I’m seeing is a parade of exposed shelf tops and naked peg hooks.

For the retailer to say, “woe is me, my vendors can’t fulfill my orders,” is simply not good enough. Sales only come from producing a “sale,” be it for fishing tackle, apparel, candy bars, or warm weather gloves. The register only cares about dollar transactions, not the name of the item sold.

In a word, if you want to survive in these difficult times, then sell as much tackle as your vendors can supply you plus copious amounts of anything that has sales potential. What can you do to get more basic tackle merchandise? Check this list for ideas.

Speak with each of your vendors and/or reps to get their input on ways and ideas for obtaining more of their products. Be sure to ask what they have versus merely what you want. Check with all vendors about any availability of closeouts or discontinued items. They may be discontinued…but they may still have selling value.

Check not only with your current vendors but also check out similar vendors, jobbers, or vendors who concentrate on off-price inventory. Also spend some time looking at eBay offerings. Contact other tackle retailers or members of a buying group to see if they have any overstocks you might be able to purchase.

Add new related and non-related items, which have a broad consumer appeal. It’s amazing what can be sold in a sporting goods/fishing tackle store if the merchandise is appealing, priced attractively, and is merchandised with some panache.

Consider adding a whole new merchandise category that may or may not be related to outdoor sports. Possible items might be sports apparel, food items, outdoor art works, travel items, a travel agency, an equipment rental department, a merchandise consignment area for people who want to sell something they own, camping items, hunting merchandise, hiking equipment, boats, motors, and boating accessories.

When it comes to “what can I sell,” never make an assumption that you can’t sell it. Also consider opening a “repair facility” wherein you repair rods, reels, or other merchandise. Remember, all dollars are green!

Be willing to try merchandise that, on its surface, would be a little “suspect.” But I can tell you, based upon my own experience, unique items often have broad consumer appeal and will generate interest, discussion, and sales. When I owned sporting goods/fishing stores, we sold an amazing array of non-related inventory such as food items, electronics, tools, bicycles, marine items, boats, motors and their accessories, and an incredible selection of both men’s and women’s sporting apparel.

Scour the Internet looking for fishing and/or sporting equipment for sale at attractive prices. The brands and type of inventory might be a little strange, but something is better than nothing. There are Internet sites advertising all types of fishing equipment for sale, both new and used. Take a look!

If you have a problem obtaining sufficient traditional fishing equipment because of supply chain problems, then you must, of necessity, try alternate methods of obtaining inventory and/or substitute inventory for sale. Remember, your bank accepts all dollars.

One of the best eye-opening experiences a retailer can have is to take a “walkabout” wherein the dealer visits many different retailers and websites in search of ideas for what can be added to their product mix. Keep an open mind and be willing to try many different types of salable inventory.

Consider adding toys, games, food, men’s and women’s apparel, apparel accessories such as shoes, socks, gloves, scarves, parkas, hats, cosmetics such as sun block, hand cream, and sunglasses just to mention a few. In the process of scouring around for fishing tackle, it’s likely that you will ultimately find many new merchandise categories that can be added to your product mix.

So, what’s the message here? In the absence of traditional fishing equipment to sell, keep your register ringing, and sell whatever it takes. It’s money in the bank!

This story originally appeared in the March issue of Fishing Tackle Retailer.