Think Local … Act Local

[dropcap size=small]H[/dropcap]i. I’m the “new” guy … the new “Ken.” The Ken you’ve known as the editor of FTR for the past few years — Ken Cook — has stepped down, and I’m the new managing editor. It’s a great opportunity for me, and I’m looking forward to continuing in Ken’s footsteps as we work to make FTR an essential part of your business and the sportfishing industry.

Don’t worry, Ken — Cook, that is — is still contributing and you’ll see his byline in the magazine and hopefully even here online. He wants to slow down, but I want as much of his insight and content as we can get.

I’ll tell you a little more about me and my plans for FTR in the next issue of the magazine. For now, I want to tell and show you one of the ways I want to contribute to this website. I want to be just as essential to you and your business as the magazine, and I want to help you succeed in the brutally tough world of retail.

One way I hope to do that is by sharing some of the things that I’ve seen work (and fail miserably) in my travels around the United States and other countries.

You see, I’m a tackle junkie and have been since I was a little kid growing up in South Florida, fishing the canals around Miami for anything that would bite … sometimes including alligators. Back then, my parents didn’t understand my fascination with fishing gear or why I spent whatever money I had on it. Today, that head-shaking despair has fallen to my wife, who says our garage looks like a tackle shop exploded inside it. (She exaggerates … but maybe not much.)

[divider]Where You Come In[/divider]

Wherever I travel, I look for tackle stores. I’ve visited them from Florida to California, from Maine to Mexico and as far east as Japan. They fascinate me.

As a guy who loves fishing tackle and has shopped for it, fished with it and studied it for more than 40 years, I can tell you that one of the most important things I look for when I visit a tackle shop is the local stuff, the stuff that I can only find in that area — maybe only in that store.

No offense to the manufacturing giants out there, but I can get those products anywhere, including Walmart or any of the big box stores. And frankly, it’ll probably be cheaper at those other outlets.

But I can’t often go to the big boxes and find the little guys — the guys who are pouring worms in their kitchen, tying flies on the dining room table or making umbrella rigs in their garage. They’re the ones who are small enough, fast enough and plugged in enough to cater to their local market. They have offbeat designs or colors tailored to that fishing community and their waters.

Yes, the big guys make great stuff and you have to carry those products or risk being left behind, but the little local guy might be a big reason people walk into your store. They want to see his latest creation. Maybe they buy a few, maybe not. But they need to see it.

When I was a student at the University of Georgia in the early 1980s, there was a little bait company in the area that kept coming out with the coolest designs and the most interesting colors I had ever seen. They were small but they were quickly growing a real following.

My buddies and I would gather for bass tournaments and show off the latest bag of worms we had found at this shop or that. “Swamp Crawlers,” “Trick Worms,” even the occasional spinnerbait or two came from this company. You’d find them in one store, but not another just a few miles away. The manufacturer, of course, was Zoom Bait Company, and the shops that carried Zoom found a growing legion of anglers looking for those products. Fishermen would come in the stores asking for the latest Zoom creations.

“Do you have any Swamp Crawlers or anything — anything at all — in green pumpkin?”

It taught me the importance of thinking and acting locally. And it sent me on a lifelong journey through tackle shops, looking for the new, the different … and especially the local.

What local products are you carrying that might build a cult following … or even become the next Zoom? Should you have more of their stuff on the shelves? Should you promote them more? Will they make a run of baits in a color that you think could catch fire? What if you strike a deal to become their only outlet in the county? What could you do for each other then?

There’s a place for comments below. I’d like to start a conversation among the people reading this — hopefully the first of many. Share your experiences, your ideas, your successes and failures. We can all benefit if we all participate.