Let’s face it, wholesale prices are going up for independent outfitters and fly shops. The first to feel the pinch in the trade war with China are purveyors of outdoor gear and apparel because aluminum, textiles, and manufacturing in general are centralized in Asia. Even if your dealing with manufacturers who design and build in America, chances are some part of your business is getting the squeeze. Unfortunately, you have to pass some of those increased costs to your consumer. But can you soften the blow?
I recently returned from the 2019 Summer Market at Outdoor Retailer. I traveled to Denver to put my hands on the latest gear for outdoor junkies like myself and I spotted several interesting products and trends I want to pass along that might just benefit your sales and your customers.
On the first trend, there were more fishing brands than ever present both in fly and conventional. Rep Your Water and FishPond were newcomers. Garrison Doctor, founder of Rep Your Water shared that it just made sense being Colorado-based. It was more affordable than ever to show because his company didn’t have to ship across the country and the exposure to international buyers was very good. The new Rep Your Wild line featuring emblematic hunting and hiking hats and apparel are as likely to excite a multi-sport outfitter as their fly fishing based offerings at Summer Market. Fishpond took the opportunity to show off their new and updated tin-wax luggage collection. Higher-end and premium, the luggage fits right in alongside offerings from show regulars like Tumi and Filson, and is sure to present an interesting alternative to buyers. These fly brands join Tenkara USA and Howler Bros who have previously appeared at Outdoor Retailer. Tenkara USA once again showed off their beautiful and practical educational display that held everything any outfitter or fly sop would need to get their customers started in tenkara in a tiny footprint.
The second trend I noticed was that nearly every major brand was touting their sustainability story first. Clearly they know that buyers are looking to fill their racks with more environment-friendly product because consumers are demanding them. The product sustainability story is still largely missing from fly fishing, particularly in apparel. Outside Patagonia, Loon Outdoors and Fishpond, the offerings are slim, and especially in apparel. Frankly, it’s kind of ridiculous given the emphasis the major fly brands put on conservation. A fly shop owner or outfitter would be wise to start demanding more sustainable apparel and ways to market the sustainability story to consumers from their sources, or to start including more from brands that already do.
The third trend to pay attention to is the increased focus on women. Saltwater fishing boot and shoe brand Xtratuf has not one but two collaborations aimed at expanding their offering to the women’s market. The first is a partnership with the Salmon Sisters designers Emma Teal Laukitis and Claire Neaton whose prints adorn Xtratuf’s Legacy boots, ankle boots and Sharkbyte collection of performance casual slip-ons. They add a playful and fashionable vibe to the footwear that are all equally good on deck as they are at the bbq. The second partnership is with Fishe Wear who our industry should already know for their focus on women anglers. Both collections extend to casual footwear lines and the ever popular ankle deck boot. If I was an outfitter on any coast within a hundred miles of the salt, I’d have these in my shop, along with men’s pair, especially if I offered destination fishing too.
While it’s impossible to see everything at the vast show, I got my steps in visiting dozens of booths. I was on the prowl for items and interesting gear outfitters and fly shops could use to broaden their appeal to customers and maybe claw back some of that revenue lost to the tradewars. Here are my top five picks:
XTRATUF – Fishe Wear X XTRATUF – Sharkbyte performance casual shoes. The Trout print is killer and they perform on the boat and off. The versatility is key.
Rep Your Water – The Last Frontier flannel button down is made with bio cotton. They’re comfy and sustainable from a beloved brand.
Croakies – Abby Paffrath X Croakies Artist Collection – Abby is known for her iconic browntrout pig art and brings her unique batik style to Croakies with a new collection. Her prints also include a pretty sweet Salmon Fly.
Yakima – Fish Collection – DoubleHaul – Yakima gets into the fishing travel storage game hard with conventional and fly fishing storage this year. The new DoubleHaul protects 4 rigged rods in style up to 12 wt reel sizes and featuring a compatible tool-free universal rack attachment with SmarT-Slot kit. The felt padded reel box reduces vibration noise and wear on fly rod eyelets because rods are stored sideways – that’s smart!
Waterlily – Perhaps the most impressive portable energy generator I’ve come across outside solar this thing is made for outfitters and anglers with their own rafts and boats, or backcountry anglers. All you do is put the portable river turbine in the water and it generates power from flowing water. It directly charges USB or 12v devices and is durable and shockproof. Bear with me now, but can you imagine trailing this behind your drift boat so you’re device is charged when you pull off the water? Or if you’ve hiked into a backcountry spot or are camping near water? You get power in any weather and it’s just under 3 lbs. The possibilities are kind of endless.
Yes of course Yeti had new colorways and there were new fishing kayaks, powered and unpowered, but a smart fly shop already has items to fill the impulse purchase category or help anglers get access to more water. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at the products that can expand your customer base or fill the unmet needs of consumers. And you might just find they’re a little less grouchy about $800 fly rods.