How is the European tackle industry fairing amid the COVID-19 pandemic? The short answer to that question is ‘not well’. That’s probably no surprise – we are living in unprecedented times and the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe has been particularly bad. Many countries in the continent have seen such tight restrictions on the movement of people that even fishing, one of the last bastions of social isolation, has not been allowed.
But what’s the latest? How are companies dealing with it? As American retailers wrangle with the implications of the CARES Act, here’s a quick run around some of the key markets in Europe.
On March 24, the UK went into a lockdown of sorts, which meant that all non-essential businesses were forced to close their doors. Two of the country’s biggest fishing tackle chain retailers were among those – Go Outdoors, which has 58 stores nationwide and Angling Direct, with 34 outlets. A huge swathe of independent retailers, already feeling the pinch of a slowly declining fishing market in the UK, will also be closed and will probably suffer.
Some of the biggest brands and manufacturers in the UK like Daiwa Sports and Korda have temporarily closed their operations for seven days, with many others either doing the same or having their entire workforce work remotely.
One positive for the UK is that one of fishing’s governing bodies, the Angling Trust, is supplying fishing companies with information about the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme – a plan where small businesses can secure $28,000 grants and business loans of up to $5.8 million to help them survive lean times. The government has also promised to cover 80% of employees’ wages if they are unable to work during the crisis.
Rumours that one of France’s best-known fishing tackle retail chains Pacific Pêche was ceasing trading have proved to be unfounded, however the company has said that it is under immense financial pressure having been forced to close its 40+ stores until mid-April at the earliest. Like many retailers, it’s attempting to push people towards its online presence, however sales will be tough to come by after the National Federation for Fishing in France declared that ‘fishing activity must be suspended’ under France’s latest restrictions on the movements of its peoples.
Some hope resides in the French government’s firm actions. Huge support has been announced for businesses with President Emmanuel Macron claiming that “no business, whatever its size, will face bankruptcy during this crisis”.
A similar story in Germany has meant fishing is impossible for many of its inhabitants. One of the country’s biggest franchise fishing tackle retail chains Fisherman’s Partner, which also has a large operation in neighbouring Austria, has had to close all of its stores until further notice.
The message from German tackle brands remains positive though, with companies such as Behr Angelsport, World Fishing Tackle and DAM encouraging anglers to stay strong and look to the future, when fishing will be on the table once again.
Restrictions on people being allowed outside their homes in Holland have also hit fishing hard. Fishing holiday company The Carp Specialist has been forced to cancel hundreds of trips booked up until April 16 due to the government’s restrictions, with ones after that date subject to further updates on the country’s next actions. The company was allowing its customers to rebook trips into 2021 and urged in an official communication that “this is a time we have to find each other, over disagreements and contradictions. A time to put the common interest above self-interest. Together we will overcome this difficult period.”
Italy has of course been one of the hardest hit countries of the pandemic so far – Italian fishing tackle shops have been closed for weeks on end, with longer closures looking more likely. The movement of people is so heavily restricted here, anglers are not out fishing, stores are not making money and fishing guides are not taking bookings. The Italian trade is perhaps one of the more fragile in Europe, so there will be casualties. We can only hope that they are minimal.
Similar sanctions are having a negative impact on the rest of the European trade, but incredibly (as of 13 March) the continent’s biggest trade show EFTTEX maintains that it is still planning to go ahead in Prague, the Czech Republic from June 11 to 13. Time will tell on that one. COVID-19 is a rapidly-changing issue, so expect many more changes and more news from Europe over the coming weeks and months.
It’s hard to know exactly what to do in a situation like this, we’ve seen nothing like it for a very long time. My main advice is to impress on your customers that this won’t last forever, and they could still be planning fishing trips for when things return to normal. More importantly, remember to be kind and considerate to your customers and their needs at this time – how you behave in this time of crisis could seriously impact the reputation of your business in future years. Stay safe everybody.
What about the United States?
As recently as last week, business for many American tackle stores was still relatively stable; however, some retailers are beginning to feel the impact of government mandated shelter in place orders and social distancing. American cities are beginning to limit business operations to categories deemed essential; however, those guidelines differ by city. In some areas, dog grooming and hair salons are considered essential, while in others, virtually everything not related to food or healthcare is closed. Some stores, like Ross’s Sport Shop in Phillips, Wisconsin have turned to their tackle vending machines and online sales to help mitigate closures.
Meanwhile, the CARES Act is set to provide grant money that covers payroll and rent—in the form of small business loans—to many independent retailers through the Small Business Administration.