Two weeks before Christmas I was doing some research for upcoming blogs for FTR. I went to a number of tackle/sporting goods stores inclusive of two large, big box tackle retailers and one tackle specialty store in my area. Candidly I was shocked and disappointed at what I saw… and didn’t see!

The first big box store—noted for their large selection of tackle, sporting goods, and apparel—was most disappointing. I spent forty-five minutes in the store and was never approached by any sales staff. Their signage was poor, and their fishing tackle presentation was weak and most disappointing.

The Christmas season is the season for gifts for fishing enthusiasts. Yet, this well-known store was nearly naked as regards fishing tackle. The store was seriously lacking popular lures, rods, reels, combos tackle boxes and other in-demand fishing products inclusive of rain gear.

The store was reasonably merchandised but it had no real attraction for the serious fisherman.

Next, I went to a local, well established tackle specialty store. The store looked nice except for a serious lack of inventory. There were more empty peg hooks versus hooks with product on them. Sales staff were scarce along with any outdoor related products. No one offered to assist me or even greet me. Moreover, what was obviously missing was a preponderance of gift-related merchandise for both men and women. Wow, what a lost opportunity.

The third store I visited was a large national fishing chain store. It was huge, very well stocked, loaded with customers and very few sales staff. In contrast to the first two stores I visited, this store was clearly overstocked with more non-seasonal fishing lures and equipment that could be sold by Christmas or for the two months following.

Signage was minimal and most customers were on their own as to making purchase decisions. I will fairly state that they had a grand selection of fishing products but way too much given just 14 days before Christmas. I picked up a few lures I needed for my summer fishing trip, but it took me twenty minutes to get through the cash register line.

Of the three stores I visited, the third one was the best stocked, but heavily overstocked. Excessive inventory has consequences in the form of inventory obsolescence, carrying costs, shrinkage, markdowns, and diminished liquidity.

The fourth quarter for any sporting goods/fishing tackle store is the “cash cow.” That’s when most everyone walking into the store wants to buy a gift for someone and pick up a few items for themselves. The store should be well stocked with primary merchandise along with a cornucopia of related accessories.

The profit key, however, is to maximize sales but to end the year with an inventory level that is appropriate for date and the weather. Granted that January is typically a good month for selling out-of-season inventory, but only up to a point. Judging from the crowds in the third store, they were the winners of the day, but they could have done a much better job of managing their inventory levels relative to the days remaining before Christmas and the time of the year.

For all three stores visited, lack of staff and the training of that staff was a big negative. The last store, the national big box sporting goods store got the best overall grades, but their excessive inventory given limited days before Christmas, will ultimately result in excess markdowns and inventory carrying costs that will diminish profits.