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18 Jun

The Future of the Tackle Shop

Due to the recent Coronavirus impact we all agree that life has changed. The way we congregate, have dinner and work. We even see toilet paper as a priceless commodity like never seen before. While the virus has changed our lives in many ways, it’s not really changed the way we address our fishing habits. However, over recent years the way we buy our fishing tackle has seen a significant transition.

In days past we used to buy our fishing tackle from the local tackle shop that was well stocked with rods, reels, hooks, lines and lures along with all the other things anglers need. These tackle shops were and still are well grounded in the local communities and well supported by many anglers. Now, with the internet sales increasing, the local tackle shop has had to sharpen its game in the areas of marketing and diversity of product lines such as adding more apparel and items that appeal to the fishing public. Many find success with enhanced social media presence and customer events.

We recently spoke with a number of experts in the Saltwater Fishing Tackle industry about their thoughts on where the tackle industry was heading when it came to retail sales.  The responses had several interesting perspectives on the tackle retail future.

Multiple comments were made on the impact of internet sales. While companies like Amazon have bitten into the fishing tackle market, they can’t offer advice and provide local knowledge. The internet option does not allow the “hold it, touch and feel it” option that is key to the purchase for many fishermen. For the angler that wants to save a few bucks by buying tackle online, he’s limited to seeing it on a small picture and a brief description. In most cases, he pays for shipping and then is some cases he is faced with a complicated return policy and even more shipping. The internet option is here for the foreseeable future and it has enjoyed significant growth, but the “text book” angler is a loyal customer especially when it comes to seeking advice and guidance that the internet can’t provide.

Other comments included the future of the “Big Box Stores” like Bass Pro Shop. While they’re fun places to visit, they pretty much require the customers to locate the product they need with little or no assistance. These chains face incredibly high overhead with reduced traffic due to increase internet options. In the past 24 months the industry has seen 2 major players (Gander Mountain and Cabela’s) all but disappear with Gander Mountain being absorbed and reduced by Camping World and Cabela’s being picked up by Bass Pro Shop. Sports Academy is showing issues with a recent layoff in the corporate offices. It’s also thought that incidents like the Coronavirus will leave a fear of shopping in large crowds, which will decrease the “Big Box” popularity.

In recent years came what I call the “Big Box Store Juniors”. These were local or regional stores that were in many respects a small version of the big box stores. They’re local stores that carry a wider array of outdoor goods than smaller tackle shops. They are both managed and owned locally. They offer the best of multiple worlds with a personal approach unlike the “Big Box Stores” and a wider, more diversified selection of the small tackle shop. One store as an example is Eastern Outfitters in Hampstead and Jacksonville, NC, with another one on the drawing board. We checked out the Hampstead location, the main store, which has a great selection of fishing tackle with all the key brands. The staff is made up of experienced fishermen that brings fishing and local knowledge to the table. They offer an assortment of kayaks suited for inshore fishing. They also have a marine store that carries a good assortment of electronics and other boating gear. Beyond the obvious rods, reels and tackle they carry a large array of accessories like coolers, insulated cups and other angler related products. They also have a fully stocked gun and archery department, again, with experienced staff that could help with anything from concealed weapons licensing to how to site your hunting rifle.

The store has a great selection of apparel and shoes for both men and women that include popular name brands.  You can also shop online just like “The Big Box Stores”.  Events like fishing seminars are offered as well.  All of this is why I refer to Eastern Outfitters and other stores like the “Big Box Junior” model. This store and others like them are able to be far more nimble than the “Big Box Stores”. Much less overhead and a better view of the needs of their customer base is key. Their model doesn’t require a massive marketing budget, instead, they depend on solid fundamentals like social media, e-mail marketing and carefully placed billboards.

This is a concept that many of the smaller tackle shops are embracing. They are beginning to stock products beyond just fishing related items. This combine with the community loyalty and local knowledge will allow them to remain a key player in a changing segment of fishing. So…it appears today that the greatest growth will be within the multifaceted stores that have moved beyond just fishing tackle. In all, this covers the bases the most effectively.


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