Short Strikes No. 15

This week, Short Strikes uncovers a burgeoning alliance of small tackle manufacturers, explores Instagram’s new business tools, and sings a swan song for one of America’s most famous and now most damaged brands.

Ardent’s Alliance

Last week’s news that Ardent Tackle and Fish D-Funk are entering a multi-year marketing and sales agreement might have slid under your radar. On the surface, the deal appears to be an innocuous sales program. In reality, the deal could be a rallying cry for smaller manufacturers.

The strike: In the wake of last year’s Maurice Sporting Goods bankruptcy, dozens of manufacturers were left holding the bill for unpaid tabs at the Chicago-based tackle distributor. The largest tabs were revealed by court documents last fall. Those showed that Maurice owed companies like Shimano North America, Normark, Yamamoto, Zoom and Panther Martin more than half a million dollars each. Those figures are nothing to scoff at, but the most damaging debts owed by Maurice fell on smaller manufacturers, some of whom relied on their distributing partner to pay up to stay solvent.

Court documents show that at the time of its bankruptcy, Maurice owed well over $50 million in trade debt.

Ardent Tackle was one of a few companies to file suit against Maurice for those debts prior to their bankruptcy filing. When a Delaware court approved Maurice’s Chapter 11 filing and subsequent sale to a third party in December, Ardent’s case was dismissed.

Now, the tackle company is rallying manufacturers to its side in an attempt to keep small businesses afloat.

“Ardent has been contacted by a number of small manufactures that have been damaged by Maurice, and—like D-Funk products—Ardent is examining the potential for additional partnerships if it makes sense for both companies” said Michael J. Brooks, President of Ardent Tackle, LLC.


Instagram is for tools

Instagram announced the addition of a key new business tool this week—an email-like messaging feature that makes it easier for brands to converse with customers. The tool is free, provided you are using an Instagram business account. (Here’s how to convert your personal account to a business account.)

How will the feature help your business? Per Fast Company: “This new messaging technology should give customers more confidence to buy directly from a post, because they can now ask questions about products or bring up customers service issues directly from the app.”

The strike: You’ll need to familiarize yourself with Facebook and Instagram’s business tools, since Mark Zuckerberg’s company owns Instagram. The good news? Instagram is still hot, as its stories feature takes aim to eliminate the social media pioneer that it stole the concept from, Snapchat.

The bad news? Facebook is losing its cool. After an embarrassing public relations nightmare following the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, user trust in Facebook has never been lower. The company is trying to rebound with a new-look ad campaign on major media networks, but there’s no telling how far consumer faith in Facebook will fall—and that includes little brother, Instagram.

Read more: “Instagram is creepy, too“- Mashable.

Be careful what you wish for blues

Last week, one of the most iconic brands in America filed for bankruptcy. Gibson Guitar, whose axes garnished the waists of Chuck Berry, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Gibbons, Kirk Hammett, Dave Grohl, and a host of the world’s greatest all-time guitar players is now embroiled in a Chapter 11 case of its own. Gibson Guitar is singing the blues with $500 million in debt.

The news comes as no surprise to guitar players, but for everyday consumers, it’s a shocker. How could a company so popular, and so synonymous with quality products fall so far?

The strike: Gibson is guilty of wanting too much. In recent years, the Nashville-based business lost focus on the legendary quality of its guitars, falling into what its executives called a “vicious cycle” of decline thanks to a Hong Kong-based consumer electronics arm of Philips, that it acquired in 2014. The company will continue to build guitars after a painstaking restructuring and a severe public relations hit. Let that be a warning shot for the tackle industry.

Acquisitions here are not uncommon, and the $600 million-plus shadow of Pure Fishing looms over the market right now. Contrary to Gordon Gecko’s famous remarks, greed is not always good.. Greed will run you down, as Gibson’s most famous customer can tell you.