Inventory: Are You Playing Offense or Defense?

[dropcap size=small]D[/dropcap]o you buy offensively or defensively? Do you purchase products because you believe you can sell them quickly at good margins or because you feel you have to carry those items? (If the competition has them, you’d better have them, too!)

If you watch much football or basketball, you’ve heard announcers say, “Defense wins championships!” Maybe that’s true, but it doesn’t move fishing tackle. It’s a better play to buy with offense (sales) in mind. Customers are looking for what you have, rarely beating you up for what you don’t have.

As long as you have the key items they want, you’re not going to be ignored just because you don’t carry some obscure jigging spoon they can only get at Charlie’s Tackle Box across town. After all, if it’s that important and that popular, you’d put it on the offensive side of the ledger and have it in the store anyway, right?

Take a critical look around your shop. How many items are there because you know you can sell them? Now, how many products are there because you’re afraid not to have them? I think you should consider ditching a lot of the stuff in that last group. Those are probably the dustiest items on your shelves.

Defensive items sell at a mediocre rate and typically offer poor margins. Offensive items sell faster and with a better margin. They spend less time on the shelf and turn over more quickly, so you make more money.

What about knock-offs? Unfortunately, the fishing industry is full of them! Someone comes out with a great thingamajig, and then less innovative companies (which may be larger and have much bigger production facilities and better distribution) copy it. Do you need them all … or just the original? Which one do your customers want? Are any of the knockoffs demonstrably better, or are they just riding the coattails of a good idea? And if they add nothing new, do you need them in your store?

Who wants the cover band when you can have the real thing?

What would your shop look like if you eliminated a lot of the “defensive” items? You’d probably clear a lot of shelf space. You’d not only eliminate a lot of products, but also clear some pegs of lure colors that don’t give you much potential. You’d have room to experiment and show your customers some new things. Isn’t that something they’re looking for when they come into the store — new stuff they haven’t seen before and don’t already have in their tackle boxes?

When you play offense, you take greater control of things. You can define yourself and your store.

It’s true that playing an aggressive, offensive style can be risky, but it gives you the chance to win. If you’re always playing defense, you’re just trying to hang on. It’s tough to score points without the ball.

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