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Hot Dealers rna Cold Market o

No one involved in the Ugo's flyfishing boom predicted the current stateof plummeting sales.A consistently shrinking customerbase. Terrorism. War. Rising energycosts. Inflation. Unemployment. Recession. Just over a decadeago,flyfishing manufacturerswere really developinggear. Over 12Oofly shopswere busy selling that gear,and thousandsof guideswere busy taking customerson trips with their newly purchased gear. Headytimes for sure. No*, theflyfishingindustryhasa decisionto make,andif

you want somethingsugarcoated,go buy a doughnut. What is on the tableis a simpledecision:Do I want to succeedor is it bestto closemy doors? While the light at the end of the tunnel is temporarily disconnected,there is still hope.

Written byTomKeer

There are enoughsuccess storieswithin the four walls of our industry'. I that there are many talenteddealers, own believe I've lodges,and guides. selectedfour dealersfrom four differrepresentative regions who are of decidingto succeedin ent hasweathereda varimarket. Each one spiteof a declining natural disaster,rising unfrom competition, ety of storms, like. Still, they post rates, higher and the costs, employment increases. as net profit increases as well annual top-line sales Beforewe review them individuallv what are their characteristicsasa group? l. They takeplannedand calculatedrisks. 2. They consistentlywork hard.

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3. They work smart. 4. They are creativeand innovative. 5. They are sawy'. 6. Mediocrity is not in their vocabulary. 7. They are resultsoriented. B. All are focusedon solutions. 9. They havea vision and plan accordinglyto bring it to fruition. 10.They askfor help when they needit. \{ho would advisea businessowner in an industry with a decade-longdeclineto expand? No one,but the following four did anyway: South Central: A Little LessConversation.A Little More Action-ElvisPresley

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New York, NY . Arlington, VA

The Great SmokyMountains havelong been a strong destinationfor flyfishing. Somefolls likeJim Babb, editor of and BarclayCreek Press'JimAnker hail CoryI SportaqJournal and the Tellico Nymph was from this region of Tennessee, developedhere aswell. Byron and PaulaBegleylaunched


Little River Ouffitters in Townsend, Tennessee in 1994. The original store was400 squarefeet. 'After our initial launch, found we our saleswere trackingfar aheadof projections," Begleysaid. "Our programs were well receivedand we were growing. We noticedthe first signsof decline right when we neededto expand. We had spentthreeyearsplanning our expansion,and while it did not make sensein the big picture,we moved forward anyway." In order to realizetheir dream, the Begleystook significantrisls. They purchaseda commerciallot, and built a 7,000-square-foot building with retail and back-storagespace,classrooms, and offices.They tripled their outreachprogramsto include more schools,quarterly specialevents,md free seasonal seminarson weekends.Vendorswere added,and product lineswere expanded. The Begleysare conservationists, and they selectedboth national and regional groups alike to work with. "In addition to fishing and hunting like tout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, md CCA, we alsofocuson generalinterest groupslike the Little River Watershed, Friendsof the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Girl Scouts,"Begleysaid. "We are big supportersof the Little River Chapter of TU aswell." As the useof technologyincreased, the Begleysstudied,learned, and applied. Theirfirst stepwascreatingan ffirmation-based website.A few years late4they had anothertough decisionto make:the repositioningof a decade-old catalogueinto a state-of-the-artwebsite. "In 1996,paper and mailing costswere significantlylessexpensivethan an e-corunercesiter"saidBegley."In the '90'sit made sensefor us to shoot,layout,print and mail a catalogue.Now it doesnot. So we folded our generalconsumermodel into an e-commercesite. We now reachmore than 100times morecustomersthan our catalogueever did, and we realizea significantcost savingsto LRO.

"We did not anticipate the increase rn box-store competition within a 4O-mile radius of our store," said Begley. "Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain and Orvis each added company-owned stores. So, we redefined our businessobjectives. As box stores are able to inventory millions of SKUs, we couldn't. We conceded to them on the clothing categories, and repositioned LRO to focus on tackle. WeVe always been committed to personalized service, but we always find ways to exceed our customers' expectations. Proper forecasting is critical for our two saleschannels, and we are constantly evaluating and anticipating trends. Our goal is to maintain proper year-round inventory levels, and the combination of historical salesdata combined with forecasting keeps us in an in-stock position. We realize most every sale." For the first time in Fishing Tackle Retailer's history Little River Ouffitters received a l00o/o Perfect Score in March 2009. That new award sits next to their 200+ Orvis Dealer of the Year plaque. Mid-Atlantic: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance Ever think of owning five flyfishing retail stores? Tory Gehman of TCO Fishing worked for I I years to achieve his goal. Gehman opened his first store in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1989. After half a

dozen years, he had a taste for the busi-. nessand made a decision to thoroughly service the eastern Pennsylvania flyfishing market. Gehman studied dozens of markets, analyzed trends, created a businessplan, and established a financial plan. After the six P's were done came the rollout. Bryr Muoul Pennsylvania, in 2005. Lake Placid, New York, in 2006. State College, Pennsylvania, in 2007. Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 2008. To most consumers and shop owners, it seemed like Gehman had struck the lottery and expanded, but that's not true. "I had an idea, but it was big enough to sink me," Gehman said. "The decade that I spent studying retail, real estate, and financial trends flew by. I focused on how to make my plan work. My salesreps provided pockets of regional as well as national salestrends for review, and were very help{irl. Llltimately I knew that I'd need to make a significant financial commitrnent on real estate,build outs, marketing, inventory a POS system, among other fixed and variable expenses. It seemslike the expansion happened overnight; sometimes it feels that way, even to me." Gehman's multiple brick-and-mortar locations resulted in a seldom out-of-stock scenario. By managing his inventory he achieves higher-than-industry standard inventory turns' continued on nextpoge...

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"Lake Placid did not fit my model, and was an interesting growth opportunity. Many of our customers had been traveling to the Lake Placid region, and it fit our model. With our local guide network and our flyfishing schools, the result was an inhouse destination location. Remote management can be difficult, but in this instance a partnership withJerry Botcher at the Hungry Trout was critical. With his lodging and restaurant in close proximity to the fishery it was perflect." "The bottom line in this businessis people," Gehman said. "I hired the best I employees I could find and then trained them consistently. Our customers have responded, and our businesscontinues to grow. The more you study, the more things fall into place."

Northeast: Go Hard or Go Home Manhattan, NYC, America's most cosmopolitan ciry comes with one catch: it's expensive. The new Abercrombie and Fitch (720 Fifrh Avenue) was the most successfulretail store in 2008 IVYC. While their gross sales/ square foot ranged between $8000$10,000, $800/square foot is the average. With rents ranging from $450-$ l38O/square foot, every retailer has to hustle. And sandwiched in between the national retailers isJon Fisher and his Urban Angler. Founded in l9BB, The Urban Angler had been around long enough to have picked all the low-hanging salesfruit. As New York's premier flyfishing venue, its two channels of distribution business(brick and mortar and mail order), foreign business,a guide net-

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work, destination travel, fly schools, clinics and outreach programs grew throughout the 1990's. Fisher was in a comfortable place until a quadruple rent increase threatened. In a bold move, Fisher decided to expand. "Margins in flyfishing aren't as high as in other industries, so when we outgrew our old location I needed to be very careful that our expansion didn't come at an expense to our profit margin," Fisher said. "If I focus only on top-line salesgrowth I'll go out of business. Instead, I study GMROI carefully, and place preseason and fillin orders so as to ensure profitability." As a cost savings to The Urban Angler, Fisher relocated his store to a 3,300-square-foot space in the Flatiron District on Fifth Avenue. The location is in perfect proximity to his target customer base and foot traffic, so one problem was solved. Still, the exorbitant rent did not allow for a mail order fulfillment area for his overhauled Internet business. The solution? A second retail location in a less expensive area. While it sounds like the tail wagging the dog, Fisher made a strategic move in opening up Urban Angler, Arlington in Virginia. He bought an existing flyfishing business that stayed true to it core tackle-model. The 3,500 square feet of retail space accommodates walk-in customer traffic, and an additional 3,500 square feet handles back storage space for order fulfillment. "We were able to address two issues,those being to expand our brand presence and increase our sales. Annual gross salescontinue to climb as they have since our expansion." Conservation has been a big part of the shop's businessmodel for two decades. "There is a big green movement, and at one point or another we've been heavily involved with most conservation groups. The list is long;

but suffice it to say,our recent addition is Blue Ocean, chosen because of our significant involvement in the saltwater fisheries."

pond, all in an area with increased traffic flows. A creative mezzanine design makes for additional retail space while allowing for indoor casting.

Rocky Mountains: and Survive

"Sawy dealers look not just towards gross sales,but net profit. Making prudent business decisions regarding margin funded expansion plans. Industry standards are a given 50o/o,but many manufactures offer in seasonor promotional discounts of up to 650/o. By realizing an extra $50.00 per rod sale extended across50 rods, the $2500 additional net profit funds advertising or outreach efforts and the positive trend continues."

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome,

In 1996, Colorado Springs' Dave Leinweber approached Angler's Covey ownership with the idea of opening a satellite location. The businesswas founded in l98 l, was growing, and a second location made sense. The second location did not happen, and as fate would have it, by 1999 Leinweber owned the retail business, the properfy and the loans in their entirety. "Shortly after I owned Angler's Covey we had the total Haymen wildfire that devastated Cheesman Canyon and affected Deckers. We feel those effects today. I just had to roll up my sleevesand work more creatively." Several years ago, Leinweber outgrew his space. "It needed more space. To arrive at a design I deconstructed the sport of flyfishing into sections. At the core is the cast, which therefore means that to successfully sell rods you need a place to cast. For most of the year, casting rods outside is a treat, but our winters are tough. My solution? I decided that we'd need an indoor and an outdoor casting area. Next, flyfishing is an individual sport. As a retailer, I wanted full assortments of all vendors' products. But they had to be inventoried properly with a focus on visual merchandising techniques and contribute to the bottom line. I upproached each of my vendors with a proposal to work together, and we did. I wish I could just carry best sellers,but the reality is I'll miss salesif I do. There is a balance that I study every day)' As a result, Angler's Covey has an excellent representation of products from many manufacturers, and decisions are based on GMROI. Leinweber is education-oriented, and devotes a tremendous amount of his time to bringing new participants into the sport.

I only need to look at my own bank account to know that we're in difficult times. But these four dealers have shown that growth is possible. And to a degree, Death of a Salesman'sWillie Loman was right when he said "the world is your oyster. . ..but you can't crack it open lFrg on a mattress." ftrX Contact Inforrnation: Byron and Paula Begley Daniel Drake Little River Ouffitters 106Town SquareDrive Townsend,TN 37882 865-448-9459 Tory Gehrnan TCO Fly Shop 2229PennAvenue Reading,PA 19609 610-678-1899

Dave Leinweber Angler's Covey 295 S 2lst Street ColoradoSprings,CO 80904 7 19-47r-2984

Tips of the Trade: -Study your Market. -Plan, Plan, Plan. -Solicit advice from manufacturers and salesreps and cross-referencewith your own researchand experience. -Plan for funding.

"We offer classesfollowed up by local guiding and then a loyalty program, all designed to keep fishermen fishing. We're customer service focused, and have found numerous ways to differentiate ourselves."

Jon Fisher The Urban Angler-New York 206 Fifth Avenue,3rd Floot New York,NY 10010 2r2-689-6400

-Play to your strengths. -Servicethe heck out of your customers.

The result? Angler's Covey is now in a new location, housed in an 8,755-square-foot building with 2,000

-Staff training and Product Knowledge-rep clinic-ing are key.

square feet rented to tenants, 5,000 square feet of selling space,two outdoor casting ponds, one indoor casting

-Gross salesare important, GMROI is critical.

-Community Involvement and outreach programs regardlessof age. -Destination trips, -You're already a fisherman.. ..becomea retailer. -Obstaclesto successare constant. Rent increases, retail competition,fires, droughg and deluge are a given. Focuson what you need to do to grow.


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-C reative, out-of-the-box, solutions-orientedthinking wins the game.

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Hot Dealers in a Cold Market by Tom Keer, originally printed in Angling Trade  

No one involved in the 1990's flyfishing boom predicted the current state of plummeting sales. A consistently shrinking customer base. Terr...

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