Retailer Spotlight: Bass Tackle Master

You can drive to Lake Havasu. You can blaze a trail, if you like. Come in from the West—the trail from California. Come in through the Mojave Desert, and if you time it just right, the sands will unfold like a purple flame burning its way across the trail. You’ll see the Colorado River dancing its narrow way south; and you’ll cross the Arizona border under the eye of a jagged, purple mountain…a needle stretching into the sky. You’ll hear the roar of Harleys in your ears.

And if you drive to Lake Havasu, you’ll find yourself near a tackle shop on a lake in one of America’s premier party towns. Lake Havasu is a legendary summer destination for college kids, speed boats and more liquor than you can shake a stick at. But parties aren’t the only thing waiting for you in this desert oasis, there are fish here, too—fish that you can and should shake a stick at. That fishing is fueled by one of the most deftly run tackle shops in the business: Bass Tackle Master.

Run by  former Kmart manager and tournament fisherman, John Galbraith, Bass Tackle Master takes an unusual approach to inventory. It’s an approach that works well for them, and it could help you make more money. It boils down to more being more, and learning how to streamline all of those SKUs.

Galbraith purchased Bass Tackle Master after spending 10 years as a sporting goods manager at Kmart, and while a big box might seem like an odd place to cut your independent retailer teeth, Galbraith swears his time there tailored him for the gig. Kmart taught him how to manage inventory, how to streamline the process and how important it is to keep up with SKUs in real-time.

That experience was good enough to give Galbraith’s business—one he acquired from some tournament fishing friends—legs. But when the economy tanked in 2008, Galbraith says his hand was forced.

“We were forced to do online sales in 2008. I didn’t hire a web team, I did it myself and it was probably more of a daunting task than I wanted to take on at the time,” he explains. “But I found some online places to learn it, and I found some software to keep track of SKUs online in real-time.”

The transformation was a blessing in disguise. Even seven years after the recession, Galbraith’s shop is still one of the few independent tackle retailers making real hay with online sales. Why that is, especially in an age when setting up an eCommerce store has never been easier, remains a mystery. But Galbraith’s story is proof that you don’t have to hoist a big box banner to increase your bottom line with online sales.

Galbraith’s model is go big or go home. He carries over 12,000 SKUs under his roof and 11,000 active SKUs online.

“Selection is key,” he says. “You see different markets and how they change. [We noticed] Tournament bass anglers, their style and the things they were buying were changing. They wanted more high end baits, more detailed stuff. The $3 bait wasn’t cutting it for a lot of tournament anglers, and that’s the market we were targeting.”

Changing, shifting like the desert landscape that surrounds his store—that’s how Galbraith’s business has survived. Failing to do so is exactly how his former employer failed, losing $24.9 billion in sales from 2000-2014 while shuttering over 1,100 stores in the process.

But in 2015, you can drive to Lake Havasu. And if you do, John Galbraith’s store will still be there—thanks to a little shifting and moving, and a lot of dedication to inventory management and eCommerce.