Industry News: Tom Morgan Rodsmiths, Simms

A few interesting news items from the business side of fly fishing.

Tom Morgan Rodsmiths is opening a shop in Bozeman Montana. The new owners, who bought the company from Tom and Gerri Morgan before his death in June 2017, plan to continue the dedication to custom craftsmanship that Tom Morgan Rodsmiths was built on. The shop will be next to the north Bozeman River’s Edge Fly Shop. You can read more here.

I plan on visiting it on my next trip to Bozeman – hopefully next year.

Simms has announced that Bart Bonime, who led the fly fishing marketing at Patagonia, will be joining the Simms team. He joins former Patagonia CEO Casey Sheahan, who is now Simms’ CEO. Read more here.

It will be interesting to see what this means for the next couple of years of product releases for Simms.

No More Fly Fishing Barbie Dolls

The New York Times has an article on how women are the fastest-growing demographic in fly fishing. And like most other things in our society the growth of women participating in fly fishing will be good for everyone.

Manufacturers such as Orvis, Patagonia, and Simms have increased the promotion and offerings of clothing and gear designed and built for women – not just having small and extra small sizes. Greater numbers of women will provide opportunities for more sales based on growth and not just replacement sales. Women will travel to destination fly fishing locations just like the men.

But this growth and promotion is not just about gear sales and travel dollars. It’s about acceptance and respect.

Women guides will offer different perspectives and means of coaching and instruction that will benefit all their clients. Women will be respected for their skills in fly fishing and accepted as full participants in the sport, not just as bikini-clad models at shows and in advertising – “no more Barbie dolls” as April Vokey calls them.

Reading the article made me cringe in terms of how women have been treated by fly shops, fellow guides, and even clients. As a society we should be long past that behavior. But as in most struggles for acceptance there is a long wade ahead as older ideas give way to younger ideas and young women.

You can read the article here.

An Open Letter from Lefty

Lefty Kreh

I found this posted on The FlyFishing Forum. Lefty Kreh updates us on his health. While he says he might be around for a few more years, and I certainly hope so, it certainly feels as if this is the end of his public life. A truly amazing man.

To my friends,

I was 92 in January and had a carotid artery operation. During testing the hospital determined my heart was only pumping 35% and must limit my physical activities followed by a rest. The industry was extremely helpful and last season was able to attend the shows, clinics, etc.

Several weeks ago, I realized I was developing another problem, which is normal for someone nearly 93. It turns out I have congested heart failure. My pacemaker revealed there was a series of very rapid hear beats, which could cause a stroke. Fortunately a lot of doctor/friends are fly-fisherman and worked with me. In summary I have to give up travel and presentations as in the past.

Everyone produces a certain amount of fluid in the body and excretes the excess. Because of the low heartbeat my body is not getting rid of all the fluids and I gained weight. My best friend Dr. Mark Lamos put me in the hospital and with back procedure they twice removed a liter and a half of fluid from my chest. After five days in the hospital. I lost weight.

A week or so later I starting gaining weight again so it was back in the hospital for the same treatment. They reduced most of the fluid and returned home. I determined I was not going to continue back to the hospital. Mark decided to use medicine to control the excess fluid. It’s been a fine-tuning situation but looks like it’s starting work.

This means the schedule I lived for decades is no longer valid and will spend most my time at home. As we get older we learn to adjust to what we can and cannot do. I have a number of interesting computer home projects on the computer and busier than a Syrian bricklayer. I’m not frustrated and I’m content My problem is I don’t have a lot of stamina and have to work around that. If Marks medical system works I should be busy and around for a year or two.

I would like to be able to send this email to my friends but I don’t really know how to do this. So I’m asking others to help me spread the word through email. Because my lack of energy and stamina I having trouble answering emails (there are more than 400 on the computer) and not talking much on the phone. This is not meant to be unfriendly is learning to adjuster my situation.

In summary I’m busy and content but I want you to know I am so appreciative you’ve have shared your lives with me.

All The Best Friends,
Lefty

Orvis 50/50 Campaign

Orvis 50/50 Campaign

Women make up only 30% of fly fishers according to the 2017 Special Report on Fishing published by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and the Outdoor Foundation. Orvis has set out to change that. Its new 50/50 campaign has set a target of 50 percent participation by women in fly fishing by 2020.

Leading off with more fishing apparel, wading gear and boots sized for women, and women-specific events, Orvis has made a commitment to match its campaign goals.

I recognize this is enlightened self-interest. More women in fly fishing means more potential sales for Orvis, particularly when their events highlight their gear. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with enlightened self-interest.

Bringing more women into the sport will benefit everyone – gear makers, guide services, lodges, and so on. At the same time, more women in the sport will mean change will be required to accommodate them. Hear that, disheveled tobacco-chewing guides?

Further, more voices for conservation of wild places helps everyone. This is becoming more critical given the current administration’s policies and priorities.

I once got to watch Molly Semenik teach an introduction to fly fishing for women. For those who don’t know her, Molly is on the Casting Board of Governors of Fly Fishers International – the leading organization for certifying casting instructors. I was struck by the difference in terms of how Molly approached teaching versus some sessions I’ve been in taught by men. More voices like Molly’s are needed to continue growing the sport.

This is a great initiative. Well done Orvis.

Visiting Your Fly Shop – What You Should Expect

I came across a post from Vail Valley Anglers on what one should expect when visiting a fly shop. I think it’s good to be reminded of what shopping used to be like when most retail business was conducted person to person by members of the local community.

In many areas of retail those days are long-gone replaced first by the super mega mall with its acres of parking, food courts, and often-large boisterous crowds; and now by online businesses; ultimately like to be one online business as Amazon consumes everything like a black hole.

And fly shops are reminders of the way business used to be conducted – at the local level. I’ve visited a great many fly shops over the years. I seldom recall, or even attempt to do so, what brands they carried. But I do recall those where I was welcomed and treated with genuine interest.

I will say that most of the local fly shops around here are great. I’ve not been in one where I wasn’t made to feel welcome or where the staff was friendly. A very few have staff that remember my name even when I’ve not been in the store for many months. Those are the types of places that need to be supported.

You can read the post here.

Let’s Kick the Habit of Plastic Fly Containers

AFFTA

Do you ever think about how you add to the waste stream when you buy flies?

I’m talking about those little plastic containers used to hold the flies you buy at your local fly shop.

It may not seem like much, but you’re part of a big, big problem. The American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) estimates fly shop retail sales use bout 3.5 million plastic containers annually. That’s a lot of plastic that’s eventually going into landfills.

Now AFFTA has announced new initiative to reduce that waste stream by offering recycled paper fly boxes for sale to its members.

Your local fly shop can do its part.

And we can do our part as individual fly fishers. We can use old containers the next time we go in to buy flies rather than use a new container – whether paper or plastic.

Tom Larimer Joins G. Loomis

Tom Larimer announced yesterday he’s joining G. Loomis as Nation Sales Manager.

Based out of Hood River, Oregon he is a well known guide on the Deschutes River and highly respected Spey-casting instructor.

His move to Loomis follows a long association with Winston Rods where he was a technical adviser; he was also the designer of the very popular Winston MicroSpey rods that were released last year.

He didn’t explain the reason for the move, but I might speculate that at some point he realized he wasn’t getting younger and he needed financial stability for him and his family – a real job will provide that.

Two other thoughts:

First, I also heard Steve Rajeff is going to become much more involved in the marketing of G. Loomis rods to increase market share. The hiring of Tom Larimer is probably part of that strategy. And Hood River isn’t that far from Vancouver Washington so geographic proximity is a plus. I think they’re going to give the Sage marketing machine a run for their money

Second, Larimer’s departure from Winston isn’t good for that company. When long associations end, there’s often more to it than is discussed. I note that Winston is bringing out a new rod called the Boron III Plus. While other rod companies (e.g., Sage and Scott) used the week of IFTD to introduce the rod on their web sites and Facebook pages, Winston had no announcements or Facebook posts. I just wonder if these are two unrelated issues or part of a pattern.

You can read Tom Larimer’s announcement here.

Sage and Rio To Sell Direct

I saw an article in Angling Trade yesterday that reported that Far Bank Enterprises will begin selling Sage and Rio products direct to consumers (Far Bank already offers its Redington brand direct). There was no press release referenced, and the article was mainly a teaser for a more in-depth report coming soon.

So Far Bank will be doing what Patagonia, Simms, and Orvis – among others – already do: support both retailer channels and direct sales.

I recall concerns expressed when Simms began to offer direct sales; so far, I’ve heard nothing to suggest they’ve hurt their dealers. Maybe it will be the same; we’ll have to wait and see.

More to come.

How Fly Shops Price Gear

MidCurrent had a short article on how gear prices are set in fly shops.

Except for a brief discussion on markup, most of the article focuses on the reasons for the lack of flexibility in retail pricing. That basically comes down to maintaining brand reputation and protecting fly shops from the big-box stores and discount online retailers.

As I noted in other posts, the fly fishing industry is tiny ($750 million revenue in 2012); compare that to Trident gum that had sales of $3.32 billion the same year. So the sales of all the rods, reels, waders, flies, and so on was less than the sales of one brand of chewing gum.

During that same year (2012), the average annual sales per shop was $314,789 – with shops in the West leading with sales of $431,294.

Out of those sales, a fly shop owner has to pay for building rent, utilities, taxes, salaries for employees, carried inventory, and finally take home enough to feed one’s family.

Now think about going into a fly shop. All those shiny rods, reels, waders, and clothing were all bought at wholesale prices, paid for by the shop’s previous sales. Until the inventory is sold, the fly shop is operating at a loss – the fixed costs (e.g., utilities, taxes, salaries) continue to accumulate.

Let’s have a little fun with numbers using the 2012 data and applying it to the present period.

The number of fly fishers was estimated at 3.83 million. Based on the total industry revenues, each angler would have spent an average of $195. For the sake of argument, we’ll assume the numbers hold true to today.

A fly shop owner has to do everything possible to get a customer into the shop because that shop needs roughly 1,600 sales transactions per year to generate the average annual sales of $314,789. Each day, every day, a shop needs over four sales transactions, averaging $195, Granted, there are peaks periods and slow periods, but the inexorable calculus is that a good deal of daily foot traffic is needed through the shop, and a percentage of that traffic must be converted to sales.

Looking out the window and hoping someone will stop in is a path to going out of business. If your local fly shop isn’t actively promoting the sport and itself (except perhaps in destination locations), it’s on at best a slow spiral on the same path.

Conversely, every time you go to a fly shop, at the end of the free information exchange about the hot fly or what’s fishing well today, buy something. That fly shop can’t do anything about the price of the Scott Radian or the Simms G4Z waders; all they can do is sell at the established price.

What they can do is share their knowledge of an activity we all love – if they can stay in business.

You can read the article here.

Orvis On Sale at Fishwest: Economies of Scale At Work

Fishwest is one of the biggest internet fly fishing retailers. For years, they have sold gear from all the big names (e.g., Patagonia, Simms, Sage, Winston, and many others). I had posted earlier (see here) about the economies of scale emerging in the retail fly fishing market. That post included discussion of the merger of Fishwest with Missoula-based Grizzly Hackle Holdings.

Today I got an email from Fishwest announcing that it was carrying Orvis. I checked and they appear to have a good selection of Orvis gear including the Helios 2 (many but not all rods in the series). I did notice their Mirage reels and Silver Sonic waders were not currently available.

That was a bit of a surprise as Orvis has its own distribution channels, including its own stores, a network of fly shops that carry their gear, and their own internet store. I was more than a bit surprised.

Who wins the most with this announcement? I think Orvis wins – maybe not big to start, but over time it’ll be huge as it gives them significant visibility and another distribution channel in the west and west coast of the United States. It seems to me this is part of a much bigger strategy.

Orvis has been out west for a long time, with many stores, endorsed guide and lodge operations, and dealer network. (We have an outstanding Orvis store in Bellevue that is highly regarded for its outreach on fly fishing and fly fishing education.) At the same time it has been viewed by many in the west as a stodgy east coast business with sometimes good but not great fly gear, dog beds and traditional if affected clothing.

But the truth is that much of their current fly gear is as good as anything anyone else is making (and so are some of their dog beds). The Helios 2 is properly regarded by many reviewers as among the very best rods for sale today.

Given the size of the retail fly fishing market (see here), roughly $750 million annually, it’s clear – particularly if the fears of a declining population of fly fishers are realized – that any brand (and Orvis is a brand just as much as a Sage or a Winston are) must not settle on existing market share if they are to survive and prosper.

Orvis has clearly demonstrated over the last few years a resurgence by a new freshness in design, a young set of designers (if their videos are accurate representations), and a willingness to change the game in how it does business. I think they want to produce the best gear they are capable of producing and they want to reestablish themselves as the leader in areas such as rods, reels, and waders.

I also think Grizzly Hackle Holdings/Fishwest wins big. They are bringing on a brand with market presence and share, lots of advertising, high volume catalog mailings,and an extensive network of schools, guides, and lodges endorsed by Orvis. The more advertising there is for Orvis, the more chance they will win additional business selling Orvis products.

Does anyone lose on this? I think that remains to be seen.

But certainly the move of Orvis into a new distribution channel demonstrates a refreshing break with the past. Other equipment makers – particularly rods, reels, and waders – likely need to think about a world where Orvis is more visible and is offered in a big way outside their historic way of selling their gear.