What Ails You?

I was contacted by a newspaper reporter yesterday and asked a few questions about “mom-and-pop tackle shops.” He noted that several had closed in his paper’s circulation area in recent years and wondered if it was a national trend. He also asked what pressures were impacting tackle retailers and what they can they do to combat them.

None of these questions are new. In fact, they’re things I think about every single day. I think of them because I expect that you are obsessed by them. After all, they’re the things that are coming after you and your business.

I replied to the reporter, and my answers were based upon what I’ve learned from conversations with hundreds of retailers through the years, lots of reading on the subject and more than three decades as a fishing media person. I’d like to think that my answers were well-informed, but they’re not “straight from the horse’s mouth” as it were, so I’m using FishingTackleRetailer.com to come to you and see if— collectively— we can build a better answer.

I think it’s important for one big reason. We cannot arrive at the right answer until we ask the right question.

The reporter asked if FTR’s readers were feeling the impact of online competition, an aging customer base and a weak economy? I told him yes, yes and yes. I also mentioned the proliferation of big box stores around the country.

He asked what small retailers can do to combat these issues, and that’s where I felt inadequate. I told him it’s critical to create areas of differentiation. Shops that hope to survive (or thrive) need to do the things that big box and online stores cannot. They must have outstanding customer service. They must offer local expertise. They must get involved in the community and become the go-to outlet for anglers in the area. A local and personal touch is essential. In many cases, anglers go to big box or online stores for cost savings and selection. They go to small, local shops for expertise, specialization and community. If a small shop cannot offer those things (while still being at least a little bit competitive with regard to price and selection), their days may be numbered.

Do you agree?

If asked to identify the biggest issues facing small to mid-sized tackle retailers today, I’d say

  1. A diminishing universe of anglers,
  2. Competition from online and big box stores, and
  3. A sluggish economy that’s plagued the fishing industry since at least 2008 and perhaps since 9/11 (2001).

What do you think? What are the biggest issues you face as a tackle retailer? We’d like to hear from you and to get a better grip on the question and the answer.