Pig Tails and Product Distribution


pig_tailsBy Kirk Deeter

I spent the past few weeks on vacation in Italy, where I noticed that the best butcher shops in Tuscany proudly hang the hammy hindquarters of pigs in their windows.  But the really good butcher shops make sure that the long tail is still attached to the pig’s posterior.

What this detail tells the shopper, I learned, is that those were “free range,” acorn eating, and presumably much happier hogs.  That’s important, because any good Tuscan butcher will tell you that happy, free-roaming hogs make better tasting prosciutto.

On the other hand, pigs raised in overcrowded commercial production pens are apparently disposed to chewing off each others’ tails.  No tail on the ham indicates a pressured, pissed-off pig, whose destiny is to become nothing greater than processed lunchmeat.

All of this, naturally, got me thinking about the fly-fishing industry.

No, I’m not going to call anyone a pig, but we do seem to be chewing off each others’ tails. A couple months ago, as the issue of Far Bank selling direct came to the fore, the number one type of feedback I got from dealers was that they didn’t like it, but over distribution among retailers—too many shops, to close, to each other carrying the same lines—is a far greater concern.

Of course, I asked manufacturers about this, and plenty of them had examples where X shop tells a customer they carry Y product… customer drives 30 miles to X shop to buy Y product… Y product is not there because X shop didn’t really carry it.  Regardless of who is at fault, the customer is angry.

You can definitely take exclusivity to the extreme.  The other day, a magazine editor colleague literally said he would cover a nonprofit event designed to promote the sport of fly fishing among college students, but only if he had an “exclusive,” meaning other magazines couldn’t promote it or write about it.  I couldn’t make something that bizarre or inappropriate up if I tried.

Sure, we all feel like someone is chewing on our tails now and then, but help us understand just how big a factor you think over-distribution of fly product is, by answering this month’s survey.



  1. John Staser on

    Simply ridiculous that premium brands continue to sell to box retailers and expect that their product will not be torn down in order to sell the box store brands. The box store clerks are trained and instructed to do just that. Box stores like Cabela’s have become a direct competitor to other manufactures. Manufacturer’s continue to become stronger retailers and big retailers continue to become stronger manufacturers. But neither can provide the passion, expertise and good will that a small business retailer can provide. Let’s get back to reality and start supporting small business retailers, without them manufactures will eventually loose more and more market share to big box retailers/manufacturer’s.

  2. Linda Friedman on

    My biggest problem in that I am a woman fly fisher, is that no matter who the manufacturer is, most do not have a full line of women’s apparel. If they do carry some pants or shirts, the pockets are small. Really, do our husbands or significant others carry our fly boxes!?

  3. Andrew Metzger on

    Bizarre and inappropriate is the way some shops role, even a large Colorado fly shop has pulled the “exclusive” card to support non-profits before, wish there was a way of making these practices known. What feels good to the average Joe may make them think twice if they knew how the business really treated the non-profit.

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