Opinion: From OIA CEO Frank Hugelmeyer


Frank Hugelmeyer – President & CEO, Outdoor Industry Association

 It’s Time to Fish More than One Honey Hole

As fly anglers, we know that success often depends on changing flies or moving to a new spot. In a time when show allegiances are being chosen and financial decisions are being made, it is equally important for brands and retailers to find unexplored waters to ensure the growth and success of the sport we love. In this spirit, I would like to share some observations of the market opportunities and challenges that we all face.

When we consider the broader outdoor industry, companies that collaborate with multiple market segments are better positioned to succeed. The American consumer has a proven desire to sample a wide variety of outdoor experiences, a fact that has led to the overall growth of outdoor generalists, even in tough times. Once introduced to their very first outdoor sport, participants go on a passionate lifelong journey to pursue numerous activities in a search for the most meaningful.

According to Outdoor Foundation research, eight out of 10 Americans already active in an outdoor leisure or sport activity want to try a new one. Once participants discover the wonderful sport of fly fishing, it gets even better. They remain active participants in fly fishing much longer than in any other activity measured. These findings imply that actively creating outdoor industry partnerships and fostering sport segment adjacencies is the quickest and surest path to building new participants in fly fishing.

At the same time, every brand and specialty retailer is at a serious inflection point in this fast-changing marketplace. Technology, mobile connectivity and e-commerce have changed the game we all play, and the related consumer expectations are impacting the fundamentals for all specialty retailers. At a recent Outdoor Industry Association board meeting, 28 CEOs from multiple outdoor segments, including fly fishing, estimated that 90 percent of the specialty retail and manufacturer base focused on apparel, footwear and equipment was unprepared to face the dramatic and rapid future shifts in the way we must do business.

With old retail models being completely turned on their heads, every company finds itself focused on consumer acquisition and change management — all while facing massive crowdsourcing competitors. In just a few short years, consumer connectivity has become the new currency and mobile technology analytics the new business tool for every outdoor sports segment. Discovering and implementing consumer reach strategies that extend beyond traditional silos has become absolutely paramount to the long-term prospects of every business and the industry as a whole.

At the same time, tradeshows have gone through a transformative period that was influenced and accelerated by the economic collapse of 2008. Standalone venues have shrunk, and many have become more isolated. On the other hand, collaborative forums expanded during this period. Considering these trends, it should not be a surprise that IFTD struggled to grow beyond its core.

Without question, collaborating with our friends at American Sportfishing Association and ICAST is a good start and a smart move for the fly fishing industry. It should prove to be viable for many brands and retailers. But why stop there? Being culturally attractive to many sports segments and openly welcomed into multiple tradeshow communities is a huge advantage for the fly fishing community. Why not embrace the industry’s full crossover potential?

If fly fishing is to head off the challenges within the market and benefit from the numerous opportunities that outdoor lifestyle trends, technology shifts and tradeshows present, the community should leverage every appropriate invitation and partnership, including Outdoor Retailer. In this technology and Facebook-fueled world, it makes business sense to “like” new concepts and “friend” everyone. And in a fly angler’s world, it makes even better sense to try different tactics and explore new waters. It just might lead to that special honey hole.

Frank Hugelmeyer is an avid fly angler and the president and CEO of Outdoor Industry Association.


1 Comment

  1. For those that are worried about our sport and how to expand it , I commend your energy to make it grow. I wish you success. But if you have the chance to visit one of our Fly Fishing Shows, where our only theme is fly fishing, you’ll see our sport is alive and well. Our largest location in Somerset, N.J. will simply amaze you when you walk through the door. The crowd is not a trade show crowd, just thousands of excited fly anglers, new and old, learning and spending, and just filled with excitement. We haven’t found it necessary to merge with a secondary theme. We’re all about fly fishing and have no complaints. WE LOVE IT!

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