Angling Trade’s Take on IFTD


Last night at the International Fly Tackle Dealer trade show in Reno,  American Fly Fishing Trade Association chairman Jim Klug stood before a crowd and said that he wasn’t sure yet where the IFTD expo would be held next year.

Which was some of the best news I have heard on the IFTD front in years, and a sharp decision indeed.

Now, as you know, Friday night at the show has, in recent years, been where the drinks get poured, the hoopla starts, and AFFTA announces where it’s going next.  But the truth is, while AFFTA indeed has one option in the fold… within the last week, other options have come to light.  And they’re good ones.  AFFTA is doing the right thing by playing out its hand (as one might expect in Reno).

Because those negotiations are still going on, I’m not going to get into specific details that might gum up the works.   I want this to work.  I will say for the record that the fly fishing trade show is in a better position right now than it has been in at least 10 years.  For the first time in years, there is genuine optimism and enthusiasm.  There is cohesion among manufacturers and retailers.  There’s a legitimate buzz… a vision… a plan. And the irony is that that plan may ultimately revolve around the fact that the current trade show may cease to exist in its current shape.

The show is dead… long live the show.

Dead?  Well, we all know it’s been sick for some time.  If you’re a retailer sitting this one out at home, you’re not alone.  Simms and Orvis both told me today that roughly 10 percent of their dealers are in Reno now.  What keeps the other 90 percent of retailers on the sidelines?  It isn’t lack of execution.  The show has been planned and performed flawlessly.  It’s still a heck of a party.  I love being here, because I’m hanging around with some of my favorite people in the world, talking about one of the things I love to do most.  The seminars are great.  The off-record discussions are interesting.

But from a business standpoint, there aren’t many deals happening here.  From a media standpoint, I haven’t seen many products in Reno that I hadn’t at least heard about weeks before now.  The manufacturers who are here have limited their efforts… smaller booths, fewer events, and on and on.

“The AFFTA board realizes that we cannot continue to go down this path for years; we have to mix things up,” Klug said.

And so they are.  And for the record, perhaps that’s the real role that AFFTA is really able to play.  With an operating budget that amounts to pennies compared to the dollars other trade groups spend, maybe it’s unfair to expect AFFTA to carry the full load.  AFFTA can be a means to an end, and not an end unto itself.  If you pack the military might of, say, Belgium (and that’s what fly fishing is in an outdoor/all fishing context), you’re smart to make allies.  AFFTA can be a facilitator, a motivator, a deal broker, and the shepherd that ensures that the interests of fly fishing get heard.  Realistically, that’s how the mission will be accomplished.  Not by trying the same thing over and over, and expecting different results (and we all know how Einstein described that).

So that’s where we are.  And I can also tell you, that if these opportunities don’t pan out, it won’t be for lack of effort.  It will be because those who are would-be suitors of fly fishing (who want our honey demographic), will have been all smoke and no fire.

I really hope that doesn’t happen.   We could be on the verge of a new era that will benefit dealers, manufacturers, and everyone else who legitimately cares about fly fishing.

-K. Deeter



  1. 12 hour trip to get there from the east coast kept us in the shop this year. This show needs to be in major metro areas with ease of getting there. It is important for dealers to make a presence and meet the heads of manufacturers. we’ll be there when it makes travel a bit easier on time and budget. Vendors in the past have offered incentives, with many of them going direct to consumers adding margin to their business model they should pass some of this $$$ to the dealers during show time in effort to get them to the show.

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  3. Great post! I just joined the AFFTA 3 weeks ago and was warned that this would be a low-key show. Since I work with a lot of fly shops (DirectPOS provides cash registers and computer-based point of sale systems to fly shops and related retail stores), I wanted to be here but I will be taking a loss as a business due to the lack of attendees that actually own or manage retail store in this verticle market.

  4. We have been supporting the industry trade show for 20+ years. It’s a significant expenditure but we feel it’s important to support the industry. If only the shops felt the same way. It was incredibly disappointing to see the dismal attendance at last years show in New Orleans. So many shops within a days drive or a CHEAP plane ticket and yet almost noe of them showed.
    Attnedance this year in Reno was a little bit better but still way off what is needed for the exhibiting factories to cover expenses.
    I really don’t see any solution to saving this show other than blending it with the ICAST show. It would certainly be a big cost savings for the manufacturers and also for many of the dealers that already attend ICAST.
    In speaking to several other rock solid manufacturers over the past few days it seems we share (for the most part) the same opinion on this.
    So hopefully AFFTA will spare us the “it was a great show” and “attendance was way up” sound bites and realize they are not getting it done in it’s current form and need to make a major change.

  5. It only makes sense from a business standpoint to have the show somewhere in the West. According to the AFFTA Survey the Rocky Mountains (31.5%) and the West (25.8) are the two biggest “sales by region” regions. Together they’re over half of the sales at 57.3%.

    I didn’t consider New Orleans, but was seriously planning on Reno. Family deaths prevented us from attending. I attended Salt Lake and Denver almost every time. But…all that said, I’m going for the business and not for the extra-curricular activities so SLC and Denver were very viable, enjoyable locations.

  6. “For the first time in years, there is genuine optimism and enthusiasm. There is cohesion among manufacturers and retailers. There’s a legitimate buzz… a vision… a plan.”

    What planet have I been living on? The only cohesion amongst manufacturers, retailers, distributors and on-line sellers is that all of us are struggling to make a profit. When that happens, things get ugly.

  7. Wow, is all I can say about the negativity/stupidity of Chris Brodin. You dont even make your product in the States, and you have the nerve to bash our industry? That, might I add, pays your bills! How are you still in business? No one wants to hear you.
    Sorry Kirk, but someone has to call him out.

    • Chris Brodin on

      It would be easier to reply to you if you didn’t remain anonymous. The show is a reflection of the state of our industry and the fact that it will probably will be canceled does not bode well. This is reality and not negativity or industry bashing.
      I would really like to hear your vision of the future of the flyfishing industry. I am sure that you have some keen insight.

      • Chris, your statement that the show will most likely be cancelled is false and has no base. As a current member of the AFFTA Board, I can validate this 100%. The show this year was a great step in the right direction, and it’s unfair for you to make claims from the standpoint of a vendor that wasn’t in attendance.

        My business has seen tremendous growth over the past years, and so have many other dealers, manufacturers and outfitters. I would suggest being cautious when making blanket statements about the state of our industry when you’re not willing to come and participate with the rest of us. AFFTA is alive and well. Is there things that we can do better? Absolutely and we are working on all of these points. Is our Industry broken and a lost cause as you suggest? I don’t see it that way, and many other profitable businesses would agree. The unprofitable state of one company doesn’t allude to a greater problem across an industry as a whole.

  8. It would be interesting to see the “I” put back in the IFTD show…we are a global community and going back many years, the international presence was strong and attendance from manufacturers, dealers and even the general public was reflected with enthusiasm in our global community. The news that came from this show meant something…now “Best of Show” really only means “Best of Those That Showed Up”.

    You don’t drive sales by driving product, fighting over the same piece of pie that seems to be getting smaller…you grow the business by growing the sport and doing it globally. If the IFTD wants to be held in the esteem that it once was, maybe it’s time to think more about the future instead of fighting over what’s been left on the table from the past.

  9. Bring the show back to Denver because it’s more centrally located and has cheaper and easier flights-my shortest flight to Reno would have been 71/2 hours, longest 12 taking me all around the country for a 3 day show. Another option would be to combine with Outdoor Retailer to expose dealers to different product for their shops and more importantly cross-over customers from other outdoor pursuits. This brings new entrants to the sport instead of selling to the same people year after year.

  10. Having just come back from IFTD (my first attendance at the show) and 2 weeks after exhibiting at the Outdoor Retailer, I see absolutely no reason IFTD shouldn’t be a part of OR.
    At the Outdoor Retailer our booth ended up getting situated in the Standup Paddleboard (SUP) pavillion which was also the “New Exhibitor” pavillion. What struck me the most about the experience was how that very young industry had a super strong presence at the show. I do not think any other sport got marketed as heavily at that show as SUP, all of a sudden all the climbers, the hikers and kayakers were exposed to a new sport of SUP through clinics, a pond for the boards to be tested, etc.
    The fly-fishing presence was meager at that show, about 1/2 dozen exhibitors, without an industry behind it. The casting “pond” (not really a pond, but a square of dry tarp), was situated about 1/2 mile from the fly-fishing section of the show (in this we really lucked out, the casting area was about 100ft away from our booth).
    It was a very successful show for us. Even though our booth felt very busy at the IFTD, and despite the fact that we were far away from the other fishing booths, our traffic at OR and interest of new dealers was at the very least equally high, if not more.
    If IFTD stepped in and went full-on to establish Fly-Fishing as part of that show, it would be the most successful venue. It could have its own events and seminars (as the other industries did), etc. The fact that the two shows are two weeks apart also points to a sign that it could work well.
    This is just my long 2-cents.

  11. Why AFTA continues to have shows west of the Mississippi is beyond me. 40% of the US population lives in the Northeast. If you picked a place I could drive to, I would go. Pick a place Washington DC, NY, NJ, PA, CT or even Va.There are lots of cities Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philly, Boston. I’ll bet there more dealers and mfgers and so on within 6hrs of any of these cities than in the entire rest of the west put together.

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  14. Our company exhibited at the old Fly Fishing Retailer from 1988-1998 and the Fly Fishing Retailer from 1998-2008 so been doing this a long time. Perhaps I have a different point of view.

    The show kept moving more and more into busy season… From October in 1998 to August this year. We are not one of the “Big Boys” with an exclusive sales staff that can prepare and display at a show without attending to other responsibilities in our business…. We are one of MANY mfg/dist companies who’s principals wears many hats and simply can’t be properly prepared to do a show that early in the season. It makes it difficult to continue with servicing customers now while properly preparing for a show during the peak of the season.

    Additionally for 10 years, the show seemed to care less and less about exhibitors that didn’t do a lot of advertising with Fly Fishing Retailer Magazine. I finally had enough and quit exhitibing after 21 straight years. That has changed a bit since IFTD took the show over a couple of years ago but they were kind of left with a mess and with frustrated vendors like ourselves that had given up on the show.

    We also found fewer and fewer dealers coming to the show. In 2008, the economy went in the tank and found there were not many owners/buyers willing to leave their shop during the only busy time of that year, so the statistics for that year really don’t count, but even so, the dealer count has been down year after year since the IFTD Show started in 1998.

    For those of you who had attended one of the old FTD Shows prior to 1998 knows ther real potential of a good show… which is why the ones of late have been so disappointing.

    I would love to be able to exhibit again, however there has to be some accomidation for companies like ours that the show be a bit later in the year giving us time to finish most of the busy summer season and giving us time to prepare a catalog to present for the coming year at the show. I have talked with about a dozen or so other Distributors/Manufacturers that think the same way that I do and haven’t exhibited for a while.

    The reaility is that for the show to be a real success, it needs to accomidate not just the few large exhibitors, but the majority of us as well. Retailers need to be exposed to as many vendors as possible, giving them the best opportunity to get the products they need for their shops. IT NEEDS TO BENIFIT ALL INVOLVED! If it’s just for the few large exhibitors, that’s fine… they just aren’t going to get the financial assistance from the rest of us. Our dollars should count too.

    I realize there is a bit of venting going on here and I apologize for that… It’s just frustrating when I know the real potential for the show and when asked for suggestions to make it better, or to accomidate some of our concerns, we just get blown off. Until someone REALLY listens… even just a bit to help address some of our concerns, there are a bunch of us that won’t be there.

    • Rocky, I agree with you totally. We were at the first show at the Holiday Inn in Denver in 88 and we watched it grow year after year until it reached a peak in about 1997. Those were good years and I remember being constantly busy at the booth. Sometimes dealers were lined up three deep waiting to see new product. With the bust and the excitement generated by “the movie” over, things began to decline. In 2009 we stopped attending the show because it wasn’t worth the expense and sitting in a booth with very few visitors is excruciating.
      I think that more than worrying about how or where a show should be, our focus should be on how to grow our sport. There have been numerous suggestions for education programs and I think that we need to provide funding for it as a united industry and not just expect the major suppliers to pay for it all. Manufacturers already pay a 10% excise tax. Perhaps a 0.5% self imposed tax on gross sales would be all that we need to provide funding. I’m pretty sure that we could do a better job of spending the money than the government. All manufacturers that pay the “tax” could put a label on their products saying that they are funding an education program.
      Without a consumer base, we are doomed and we will continue bickering among ourselves until our industry disappears.

      • Chris,

        We had the same experience… Basement of the Holiday in 88’… Packed. Then it moved downtown. 1 Booth in 88′ then up to 2, the 3 then 4 booths in following years after it moved to the Convention Center. People standing in line to actually place orders, a lot of business taking place.

        The split in the shows in 1998 was the beginning of the downfall, never the same.

        Would love to get back in there but not as it is right now. Hope somebody is listening!

  15. After seeing the AFFTA report on their industry findings it all makes sense to me. The average gross annual sales of shops is $318K. And after reading a lot of the comments that accurately portray the challenges for both retail shops and small manufacturers, I think this show has the correct attendance from both sides. When my shop was doing a sales figure in this range, I would have never attended a show like this just from an expense perpective. If 90% of the shops were not there, it is just a clear indication of the industry size and composition and not that AFFTA, choice of location, or show content is to blame. Our beloved industry is what it is and demanding more attendance from this show is statistically impropable.

  16. With all the technology available, I think it would be plausible to try a virtual trade show. Theres a few I attend for the travel industry, and they have a tremendous turn out. I know theres noting better than raising a glass and throwing a few back, as well as touch and feel of the latest and greatest equipment, and seeing old friends. In an effort to keep costs down – and its important to all of us in the industry – it might just be worthwhile to investigate. A day on the internet vs 2 travel days and 3 days of booth time.

    For those that attended, was it worth it? I think a lot of us still have a bitter taste from past shows. Any thoughts? I have some other ideas of how we could virtualize a show and foster relationships.

  17. It seems to me that there are a couple of key issues contributing to the lack of enthusiasm from a retailer perspective.
    First, is the need for a legitimate, convenient-to-reach location that is attractive for retailers to travel to. Seriously, how many markets have direct flights into Reno? Not to mention the need to cross over 2 time zones and into a 3rd if coming from the East Coast. (You can make your own decision on the attractiveness of Reno.)
    Yes, I am a bit of a Homer being from Colorado but, Denver fits this bill pretty well. Direct flights from all major markets, vibrant downtown and close to plentiful fishing options for those wishing to combine pleasure with their business. At the same time I realize the need to try and inject something “new” into the equation to try and get back the excitement from past years.
    Initially, I was actually excited about last year’s location. Lots of potential upside: Great food, plenty of entertainment, strong convention facilities, plenty of hotel rooms and an awesome fishery nearby to boot. Then reality came into the picture, which leads us to the second major issue with the show.
    The August show dates are absolutely a show stopper for us and not in a good way. AFFTAs own data shows 36% of all sales are captured during this summer quarter. A substantial amount more than the next most productive quarter. Most of us smaller retailers need to “make hay while the sun shines” and leaving behind our life blood during the busiest season is simply not possible.
    But it seems to me that a few major manufacturers are driving the desire for an earlier show each year. I remember those shows back in Denver and among other things that was a constant with them was a September time frame. Now forces in the industry, i.e. manufacturers, push it into August and continue to make waves for an earlier showing in the future. Which is why combining with ICAST will not make this any better. It’s two weeks earlier. Sure it may appear as if the traffic is better due to the numbers attending this show already but, at the end of the day will that traffic be the demographic that AFFTA is trying to reach.
    Obviously, manufacturers have their reasons for scheduling and that is another conversation entirely but, if they want this show to survive and continue, and who knows if they really do, then it would maybe make sense to try and give your customers something that works for THEM.
    There are multiple other factors in the equation contributing to the state of the current show. The world and our industry are a different place than they were just 10 years ago, with changes that must be addressed. But, I am a fan of the show and would like to see it continue, if it makes sense.

    • After reading all the comments pertaining to the IFTD recent show and the direction of the future of the show, I think the comments by Andrew were on the money. All the other comments had merit, also, but ANDREW, whoever you are, seemed to have the fullest basket of advice. I was impressed with the genuine concern shown by everyone who offered an opinion. The love of our sport seemed like a common denominator with all the responders.
      I’m not a big fan of e-mail, so if anyone wants to chat just phone me. Day phone in the office is 814-443-3638.

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  19. I’ve been going to our industry trade show now for 7 consecutive years, including this past week in Reno. Prior to owning my store, I went a couple of times when the show used to be in Denver. By all means, I was the CLOSEST fly shop to our industry show for a very long time, but every year that it remained in Denver I vowed that no matter where the show went, I would follow. This pledge was due to the fact that for me the show just makes sense. I am a better businessman for going, I have cultivated relationships with media, manufacturers and other fly shops that wouldn’t exist if it I hadn’t had gone to the show. I have made deals that have saved/made my business lots of money, none of which would have happened had I not gone to the show. I have attended countless seminars, panel and round table discussions, all of which have given myself a better understanding of our industry, it’s direction, and how my business falls into this natural progression.

    Here’s where things get tricky. It behooves my business to have so many fly shops sitting on the sidelines for whatever reason resonates with them (timing, value, location, etc.). Them not going makes me look good in the eyes of the manufacturer, and I have gained a lot of traction in this industry because of this fact. Manufacturers spend thousands and thousands of dollars to exhibit at the show, and they like to see their dealer base making a similar commitment on our end (not in actual dollar amount, but some financial commitment). How do I know this, I went to the show this year and asked.

    Yet from an industry stand point, all of these shops not coming to the show hurts our industry, which isn’t good for anybodies business, mine included. So I make a request to all those fly shops across the country that haven’t been coming to the show to start making plans to attend IFTD in 2013 no matter where and when it is. Stop making excuses and start making strategic decisions that will allow you, your manager, or your guide staff to attend the show. It will be worth your while, you just don’t know it because you haven’t been coming.

  20. Hello,
    I am writing from Argentina, we went to 4 Shows, 3 in Denver, and 1 in New Orleans. For us will be so much better, easier and cheaper to have the show in Miami or New York or some city where we can flight straight from other countries. I think that the idea of join the IFTD with ICAST can be great. Thanks.

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