I probably go into as many different tackle shops over the course of an average year as anyone in the country. Of course, 2020 has not been an average year. I haven’t traveled nearly as much as usual, but I’ve stopped in when the opportunity presented itself, and I’ve talked with a fair number of dealers. I’ve also tried to learn from what I’ve seen and heard.

Most retailers are telling me that 2020 has been strong for them — maybe not each and every month, but overall strong. Combos, terminal tackle and live bait have been nearly impossible to keep in stock. I know because I’ve often gone out in search of terminal tackle. The pegs are mostly bare. COVID-19 has had a profound impact on all of American commerce, particularly sportfishing.

The disruption of Chinese manufacturing has made many products scarce, including terminal tackle, entry-level combos, and some lures. COVID-19 has made hand sanitizer more precious than gold, and it continues to undermine the restaurant and travel industries … and almost everywhere else.

Indirectly, I think it’s partially to blame for the unrest in so many American cities.

And it’s probably helped to make Mike Lindell more famous than Elvis or the Beatles.

But I’m a big believer that where there is change, there is opportunity. And where there is loss in business, there is potential for gain. It may not be true in every case, but it’s been true in every case I can think of, including with COVID-19.

When I look at all the empty pegs in tackle shops these days, I know they mean lost sales, lost profits — for both the retailer and manufacturers. Had there been stock on that peg, it likely would have sold, too. It probably didn’t even have to be the item for which the peg was designated. A 3/0 EWG hook from ABC Hook Company would likely be grabbed up just about as quickly as a 3/0 EWG from XYZ Hook Company. Unfortunately, neither item was in stock.

Savvy retailers in search of product and smart manufacturers with product on hand are working overtime in an effort to connect and make each other happy. Retailers need product to sell. Manufacturers crave retail space and grabbing a few pegs away from the competition is a great way to get it and a potential way to keep it.

If you’re a dealer, what are you doing to acquire product? What are your wholesalers doing to get something on your pegs ASAP?

If you’re a manufacturer, what are you doing to spread the word that you have stock on hand — no Chinese delays, no months of waiting?

What is your rep group doing? How are you communicating that you’re “open for business”?

Can FTR help? Bridging the relationship between retailers and manufacturers is part of our business, and no one else does it as well, as quickly or as effectively.

When the supply chain has been interrupted — as it has been in 2020 due to COVID-19 — while it’s being repaired the communication chain needs to step up. Part of that chain is the retailer, another link is the manufacturer, in between are rep groups, wholesalers, distributors and FTR.

Manufacturers: Let us help you spread the word. Don’t leave your retail customers wondering where things stand or when they’ll get their next shipment.

We at FTR have long called ourselves the “hotline to the pipeline,” and it’s never been more true or more critical than right now.