A Rising Tide

[dropcap size=small]L[/dropcap]ately I’ve ended my columns with two sentences.

The first: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

I usually cringe at taglines like that. They’re typically self-serving, gimmicky or so syrupy sweet they turn me off. But the sentences just might stick for this column because I think their message is too often ignored in our industry.

Fishing and the sale of fishing tackle is not a zero-sum game like poker. At the poker table, there’s a finite amount of money in the pot, and one player is going to win it all. Maybe he gets it because he has the best cards, or maybe he gets it because he makes a good bluff and everyone else folds. Either way, one player rakes the pot and the rest get nothing.

The sale of fishing equipment isn’t like that. Our pot is bigger, the money is spread out across a universe of anglers and retailers, and we can all benefit from growing that pool of dollars.

Just because a guy bought a rod and reel from Bob’s Bargain Bassin’ Barn today doesn’t mean he won’t buy something from you tomorrow. In fact, the purchase from Bob’s makes it far more likely that he’ll be visiting your store … and soon. Today he has a rod and reel. Tomorrow he needs line and baits, a tackle box or three, some sunscreen and a bag of ice. Who’s to say he won’t buy them from you? And what can you do to help make that happen?

That’s what I mean when I say that a rising tide lifts all boats. A sale in another store has the potential to benefit you, and your sales will also benefit other retailers. Every purchase of fishing tackle is a good thing for our industry, our resource and our future.

The trick, of course, is to trigger those sales. One way is to create new anglers. Another is to keep existing anglers engaged and coming back for more. Greater brains than mine have wrestled with these issues for a long time. I have some ideas that I’ll share down the road, but for now I hope you’ll start thinking of your “competition” as potential collaborators in the effort to create more sales.

When you look at the big picture, the guy you think is trying to put you out of business may be one of your best allies.

He’s reaching some customers you’re not, and vice versa. But if you think that his customers only buy fishing gear from him, you’re wrong. They’re spending money other places, too — maybe even your store.

Is there a way for the two of you (or three or five of you) to team up on certain efforts and grow all of your businesses together? I’m not suggesting that you conspire to set prices (that’s illegal). I’m not even saying that they’re the kind of people you want to work with, but I am saying it’s worth considering and perhaps discussing.

Maybe you could run a joint youth fishing program. Maybe you work together on a tournament trail. Maybe you have a big fish contest where first prize is a gift certificate to both stores. You’re smart — figure it out … or at least think about it.

And remember that a rising tide lifts all boats.

The retail tackle business is too challenging, too demanding and too time-consuming to create enemies or competitors where there are few or none.

And that brings me to the second sentence of my tagline: “Let’s be that tide.”

If we can find ways to work together, we truly can build the sport and benefit us all.