Should You Stock Non-Fishing Items in Your Store?

I’ve heard a lot of tackle retailers tell me they can’t or won’t stock apparel, footwear, snacks, etc. in their stores because it demeans their image as a bona fide tackle shop. Pure specialization is the way to go!

So that forces a decision: would you rather be “pure” and have smaller sales and profits or would you rather sell whatever the consumer wants and grow your profits, reputation and wealth?

Case in point, when my father opened his first small store, we only sold auto parts, period. Because we had a good reputation, he began to experiment by adding small, unrelated product lines such as fishing tackle, tools, appliances, apparel, footwear, toys and all forms of sporting goods. Over a period of years, the “auto parts shop” grew into a chain of 12,000 square foot “outdoor” stores attracting large numbers of consumers.

In the movie Field of Dreams (staring Kevin Costner) there is a famous line: “if you build it, they will come.” Well, in my case, we built stores filled with sporting goods, tackle and all things imaginable that were related to sports, leisure and outdoor activities. We weren’t “pure” but we sure did sell a lot of profitable merchandise.

Did we specialize? You bet! Under our one roof, we assembled a lot of related specialties along with a smattering of totally non-related items such as snacks, artwork, apparel, travel items and the like. Our stores became a great place to fulfill your fishing or sporting goods needs along with a plethora of non-related items that sold readily.

Our large selection of products also attracted a lot of female customers and youngsters. Did this panoply of products detract from our image as a hunting and fishing store? Certainly not!

So here’s the point. As a merchant, be willing to experiment with all kinds of products, related or not. Choose and price judiciously, display prominently and convey both features and benefits to your selling team. In some cases, the product experiment will fail. On the other hand, many will succeed and surpass expectations. All such sales represent bonus dollars and will broaden the appeal of your store. 

By the way, as a final note, we were so into “experimentation” that we ultimately sold swimming pools, Honda and BSA motorcycles, Honda automobiles, downhill and cross country skis, ski rentals by the thousands, household electronics and appliances and advertising services for other business. Did we fail a lot . . . sure but we also succeeded a lot!

The moral of this story is, be willing to experiment with product groups that are outside your prime specialization. One cautionary note, if you are going to try a new product group, then put enough product in your store such that you make the statement “we are in the business of selling this type of products.”

Yes, some experiments fail . . . but a lot more succeed wildly. Good selling!