EFTTEX vs. ICAST, How North American Manufacturers Approach Europe

Fishing brands from as far and wide as Japan, Germany and Indonesia descended on the Dutch city of Amsterdam for the 37th edition of the European Fishing Tackle Trade Exhibition, or EFTTEX. Among this international melting pot of fishing innovation were 17 companies from North America – some veterans of the scene and some relative newcomers to the European ballgame – all with the same aim of nurturing their business beyond the borders of the United States or Canada. And while the basic premise behind all trade shows is very much the same, EFTTEX has many subtle differences with its American cousin ICAST, meaning the approach of the American firms there has to be adapted in order to get the best out of it.

For relative newcomers, the strategy is simply about getting the name out there. Northland Fishing Tackle’s Sales Manager, Dan Rude, explained: “At ICAST everyone knows us and they just come to see if we have something new and to order what they think will work – they like and trust our brand. Here at EFTTEX, it’s more of a meet and greet and we have to change our approach slightly, telling people what we are about. It’s not as busy here, but we have had meaningful meetings and a lot of great leads to follow.”

A similar attitude was adopted by Washington-based components giant Pacific Bay. Its recently-appointed COO, Scott Whitmore, said: “For us, this EFTTEX is about us re-engaging with our European audience – it’s been seven years since we last exhibited. It is a cost-effective way of doing that, especially because we can’t expect 30 European customers all to come to ICAST, but they will come to EFTTEX.”

“Personally, I find that EFTTEX draws a more international crowd than ICAST, too. Perhaps because there’s so many countries so close together in this continent and also that Amsterdam is such an easy place to get to.”

Companies such as Pac Bay and Northland are lucky in that their product ranges are versatile and can meet the needs of many markets in Europe with little change. For others, they have had to adapt different approaches to their product lines as well as their trade show blueprints.

Vic Cook, the co-owner of one of those firms – Canadian lure brand LIVETARGET – told us: “This is only our third time at EFTTEX and because we are still building our brand here, we go about it in a different way to ICAST.”

“We have added some lures specific to European fishing styles – we have launched perch and pike lures, but matched the hatch of European fish, including their colors and shapes. We have also heavily researched two fish we don’t have in North America – the rudd and the roach – and utilised our existing technologies in realistic lures of them.”

The attraction of what EFTTEX and the European market can offer is something that seems to be getting harder to resist from American brands, especially forward-thinking and ambitious ones, like Tampa-based 13 Fishing. It joined the show for the second time this year and is enjoying riding the learning curve.

“ICAST has more of a marketing and media focus than EFTTEX,” said Mike Sullivan, 13 Fishing’s Vice President.

“ICAST is about what’s new and consumers know about it and watch out for news on it – that doesn’t really happen at EFTTEX in my experience, though it’s only our second time here. EFTTEX seems to be more about networking and making contacts, especially from our point of view. We also find there are a lot more visitors and exhibitors from Asia here at EFTTEX, which gives a different perspective.”

While a lot of 13 Fishing’s products are designed for the bass market, which really doesn’t exist in the same way in Europe, Mike is still finding success. He said: “We find our products are filling a very specific void in Europe right now. Over time as we grow and learn more about European fishing with help from partners, that market share will grow.”

Americans at EFTTEX are not a new thing, though, despite this influx of new faces and brands gracing the show floor. PRADCO Outdoor Brands has been coming to this show for 27 years, and believes it has its strategy very well grooved.

“EFTTEX is the easiest way for us to stay in touch with our distributors here,” explained PRADCO Vice President and General Manager Bruce Stanton.

“We have exclusive distributors set up for the different countries and we spend time with them to make sure everything is working right and how we can help them. It is also a great chance for us to meet with our suppliers – hook companies for example. It just makes sense to be here – to go and visit all our European customers ourselves would cost too much time and money.”

Another long-time European adventurer is American Fishing Wire, but even for them the show is not simply just a copy and paste approach from what the company uses at ICAST.

AFW’s Sales Director Steven Miller said: “EFTTEX is a more formal show than ICAST, in my view. We’ve been coming here for over 20 years and the formula is to make a lot of set meetings with our customers and also with suppliers. There is less of the frills and showbiz aspect at EFTTEX.”

“Another thing we notice that is different, is that European anglers are more technical than American anglers. They want to know about the technical spec of the products and they also want more finesse in their fishing – sometimes as much as they can get away with – that is different to the USA.”

One thing EFTTEX definitely does share with ICAST, and probably just about any trade show out there, is that persistence pays off. You won’t come away from your first showing with multi-million dollar deals and be able to make a down payment on that retirement home in the south of Florida, but with time and effort you can grow your business significantly.

Eagle Claw President Mike Jackson nicely summarised it: “We are starting to reap the rewards of attending this show for the last few years. The first year it was about meeting people, the second year it got bigger and ever since it has become a show we are more familiar with. It does have subtle differences to ICAST, but at the end of the day, both trade shows are trying to achieve the same thing for their exhibitors.”

5 key differences between ICAST and EFTTEX

  • ICAST is busier, attracting around eight times more visitors than EFTTEX. That doesn’t mean EFTTEX isn’t worth it though, as one good meeting could set up distribution for an entire country.
  • EFTTEX moves around a lot more. The show moves to a different city each year, which affects where attendees come from sometimes. It has however been in Amsterdam most – 13 times to be exact.
  • The product awards at EFTTEX are voted for by the media, like at ICAST. However, there is one award – the Visitors’ Choice Award – that every single attendee can vote on. It was won this year by an American company – R.L Winston with its Air Fly for Saltwater.
  • EFTTEX has the perception of being more international – the nature of Europe means more countries are represented. It also seems to have a larger contingent of visitors and exhibitors from Asia.
  • ICAST has much more extra-curricular activity. There’s no ‘On the Water’ event at EFTTEX, or State of the Industry Breakfast. There is however an Annual General Assembly of the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association (EFTTA), which you can attend if you are a member.