Now is the Time

The times, they are a-changin’.

Of course, I can’t take credit for that line. It belongs to Bob Dylan, and he wrote it in 1963, but it’s at least as apt today as it was then. COVID-19 seems to be changing almost everything about everyday life in America. What seemed unimaginable is now the new normal. What seemed intolerable is now ordinary.

I can’t wait for things to change … to get better … to return to something closer to what we had. But that’s going to take a while, and we may never get back to anything like that. It’s sad, but true.

As a chubby Southerner, several of my favorite restaurants are buffets — especially Ichiban and Volcano here in the Orlando area. I hope they survive the pandemic, but I know it’ll be tough. Who feels good about eating at a buffet right now?

And who wants to shop shoulder to shoulder with a bunch of other people you don’t know? What’s Black Friday going to look like come November if there’s no vaccine? I guarantee there will be less pushing and shoving … unless it’s to get out the door.

If you’re a tackle retailer or manufacturer, how’s your mask business going? You really should be making masks, you know. What angler wouldn’t prefer to wear a mask promoting his favorite tackle shop or manufacturer rather than something that anyone could buy or make anywhere? If I’ve got to wear a mask — and local authorities and my wife (the ultimate authority) — say that I need to, I’d much rather wear a “Ron’s Tackle Box” mask or a mask that makes me look like a largemouth bass grabbing a spinnerbait than anything else I can think of.

Remember Bubba teeth — the fake teeth you could buy to look like you had the worst oral and dental hygiene in history? Why don’t we have Bubba masks? I bet they’d sell. Who doesn’t secretly dream of looking like a dangerous redneck?

Are customers hesitant to walk inside your store? Can you deliver … within a reasonable radius, of course?

Assuming you have the products in stock, it should be no problem to beat the big e-commerce sites when it comes to delivery. They’re taking weeks rather than days to get people the stuff they want. And delivery personnel should be easy to find right now.

Speaking of e-commerce, how’s that coming along for you? If it was a project you delayed for several years because you just didn’t have the time, you should have corrected that by now. For the sake of your business, I certainly hope you did.

What are you doing with social media? Are you telling your audience what’s catching fish in your market — stuff you just happen to have in stock? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to sell through.

What are you doing to team up with other businesses in your area? Everybody’s looking for an edge right now, something to set them apart. Can the local breakfast establishment provide sausage biscuits to go along with the bags of baits you’re selling curbside as anglers go to the lake? Imagine that! A good breakfast and the latest fishing gear all in one stop!

What message are you giving to your customers and your potential customers? Is there a giant sign out front of your establishment telling your new hours, what hot new products have just arrived, your sales information or whatever thing you’re doing to make you special and relevant? If not, you’re missing an opportunity. Worse yet, you’re keeping them guessing.

This is not the time to keep any customer guessing about who you are, what you’re doing or when you’re doing it.

Finally, if you’re like most retailers, you’ve seen a surge in the sales of budget and mid-priced combos. These are going to new anglers, infrequent anglers. What’s your plan to keep them in the sport and in your store? Do you even know who they are? Did you capture their contact info so you can speak to them through email or social media or whatever? It’s great that you sold them a combo and a cricket tube, but that needs to be the start rather than the end.

The decisions and moves you make right now are the things that will make all the difference as we get back to normal or settle into our new normal. Now’s the time to make the most of our opportunities.