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Simms Announces Direct Sales of Fly Fishing Gear (or, "Who Loves Ya, Baby!")

Posted by Tom Chandler 2/17/2012

This, I can predict, will prove interesting (if not downright entertaining).

Fly fishing wader/clothing giant Simms has announced its intention to sell direct to consumers on the Internet, and though Simms honcho KC Walsh and various industry pets are trying to couch this in the most neutral terms possible, it's clearly a blow to the staggering specialty fly shop.

Naturally, in his Angling Trade interview, Walsh didn't exactly say that:

I don’t see this as a move to compete with fly shops, rather a way to fill in a void that is not being filled. We’re also investing significant dollars in the website and web support, in a way that ultimately strengthens the brand, and I believe will ultimately benefit our dealers.

Yes, of course. Opening a competitive sales channel always "ultimately" benefits dealers.

Simms Website Banner

I've noted several times that the fly fishing industry's "protected dealer territory" model was not going to enjoy its collision with the Internet.

And as I said before (when Redington announced they were going direct), manufacturers launching direct sales channels can read a spreadsheet as well as anyone.

Direct sales carry their own costs -- and it's hardly slam-dunk-easy to sell stuff online -- but direct sales don't suffer the profit margin slice and dice imposed by sales reps and dealers, so Simms will enjoy the full vigorish on their online sales.

And you know -- momma didn't raise no fools over there in Bozeman.

In truth, you can't blame manufacturers for recognizing the retail world is titling off its axis, or ignoring all that fat, juicy margin just waiting for them in the promised land of direct sales.

It's also entirely fair to point out they're blowing smoke up everyone's butt when they suggest this is a good thing for specialty dealers.

Ditto the fiction that Simms simply wants fishermen to get the goodies they can't get at their local dealer (there are plenty of online outlets for that).

And in light of this announcement, does anyone else think it's a coincidence that Simms just launched one of those traffic-building blog thingees?

Almost unnoticed in all this is the announcement that Simms is going to forbid dealer sales on ebay and Amazon, so dealers caught with last year's Simms gear can't dump it -- while their customers can get the newest stuff online.

The comments under the post are largely negative, and in fact, several people call out Simms for its miserable reputation when it comes in-season product stocking

Interestingly, Underground Fav Writer Smithhammer manages to paint a larger picture for us:

My concern here is the amount of influence that two large companies, in particular, are having over the entire industry, bending things to their will. Any guesses why IFTD is held in August? Certainly not because it is a time of year that works for the majority of retailers. In addition, I think it shows a great deal of insensitivity (or cluelessness...) to individual shops when, for example, we’re just starting to see wader sales pick up in September, and the following year’s line has already been unveiled at IFTD a month before. And pre-season order dates continue to get pushed farther and farther into the future, to the point where it’s virtually impossible for us to guess what we’re going to need to following year.

All of these things are reasons why IFTD is failing, and why a few major companies in the business are shooting the industry in the foot.

In any case, this could prove to be enormously amusing to those of us who don't own a fly shop; Simms will try to smile nicely while they're cutting throats, and at least a few folks will tie themselves into knots trying to make it all seem so civilized.

In a comment to an earlier post, I suggested that Simms was one of two companies that wouldn't have to compete with dealers, and might actually survive without implementing a direct sales model.

I've been largely right about the progression of direct sales outlets in the industry, but I can see I was dead wrong about Simms.

Seeing new direct sales channels appear in a formerly dealer only industry has a feeling of inevitability about it, yet I wonder what the Undergrounders think.

See you watching the catfight unfold from a distance, Tom Chandler

AuthorPicture

Tom Chandler

As the author of the decade leading fly fishing blog Trout Underground, Tom believes that fishing is not about measuring the experience but instead of about having fun. As a staunch environmentalist, he brings to the Yobi Community thought leadership on environmental and access issues facing us today.

56 comments
I make a distinction between taking back equipment under the auspices of warranty versus swapping out NEW gear for different sizes. Many companies, including the one I work for, encourage dealers to take warranty items and assure them that they will receive proper credit. Not one of us would encourage our dealers to swap out sizes for items purchased elsewhere. Unless you want to be rewarded for all ... more your purchasing smarts by swapping needed sizes for unneeded sizes that will not sell for full retail, you have to draw the line in the sand somewhere.
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TFO ran that way for a long time. You could drop a broken rod off at any shop that had the same rod in stock and that dealer would hand you the rod off the rack in return. The dealer sends it back to TFO and they send the dealer a replacement. Very convenient for fly shops and visitors travelling to "destination" fly fishing locales. And in regards to "attitudes" in fly shops I would have to say I ... more have received very little of that over my time in fly shops, even when I was greener than green, I have always had a pleasant experience. One thing that isn't very clear when people say they have felt "ignored" in fly shops, is what time of day were you in there? If you came into my shop at 7 a.m. on a summer morning you would be waiting to be helped. We can be so busy with other customers getting shuttles, flies, terminal tackle, advice, and getting the guides hooked up with their dudes that it may take a while to get to everyone. On top of that it's at most three people working, more than likely one person is out launching drift boats and rafts, one person is answering the constantly ringing phone, leaving one person to man the cash register. If the shop is empty and you're still being treated that way then I don't blame you. Find a new shop. If it's your local shop, then that really sucks, but destination shops should realize that the majority of people walking through the door are "outsiders", and it's "outsiders" that pay the bills. At the end of the day nothing beats a fly shop in information (which is what online retailers and box stores can't provide you) . Come for tippet, leave with knowledge.
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Tom, I have not been reading the site much lately but am curious if you've speculated on how local, current fishing info can be gathered and made available if fly shops disappear. We have always relied on them for local, esp. when trying a new area. Only once in my decades of experience did a shop owner browbeat me into buying something I did not need in exchange for advice. But if retail itself is ... more tenuous (and if I were a typical shopper they'd all have gone under years ago) how else might the information change hands?
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Interesting article. The author writes: "Doing your part by buying from local businesses that live on the sport and provide superior service..." You got it. Just don't ignore me, make me feel like an outsider, act like I'm interrupting your conversation with your buddies who don't seem to have jobs and are always hanging around your shop, and make me pry information out of you like I'm an evil bait-chucker ... more looking to pillage your secret waters.
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An Alert Underground Reader pointed me in the direction of this fly shop email, which offers an interesting -- if lengthy -- look at the evolution of the fly fishing retail industry from a dealer's perspective...
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I've also apparently stumbled on the post types which generate the maximum number of emails from cranky industry folks. In terms of response, nothing compares to the suction dredge mining posts, which always result in threatening emails. Always.
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Tom, I think you have stumbled onto the three types of posts that garner the most traffic (outside of girls in bikinis). Fly shop v. Internet Sales; Writing/Photography rates/standards, and how much a "reasonable" rod (or other gear) costs.
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The last couple post were very well put I know what your talking about with the outsider/insider thing. What the heck promotes this is beyond me. Makes no sense at all as a business owner myself.
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ChangeIsGood: ...I forgot that many of you would simply write-off your personal favorite shops because you are an “insider” and blind to the level of service, or lack thereof.But I challenge you to take a better look at your shop and how they treat the “outsiders” that wander in the door. Do they go out of their way to convert those outsiders to insiders?Do they invite them into the personal dialogue?Does ... more the customer get asked a single time if they need help then ignored for the duration?Or do they just get through the sale as quickly as possible so they can return to gabbing with the insiders over the vice? I’ll state again…it has been my experience that fly shops fail miserably when compared to other forms of retail in this respect: Very, very well said.
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Greg Burchstead: ...some like myself like the shops where people were friendly and full of tips on where to fish and how to get there. Had tippet, rods, snips and flies on site. And therein lies the problem for many shops/owners sweating this new retail challenge. Earlier I posted a long diatribe - my "ode to service with a smile". I forgot that many of you would simply write-off your personal ... more favorite shops because you are an "insider" and blind to the level of service, or lack thereof. But I challenge you to take a better look at your shop and how they treat the "outsiders" that wander in the door. Do they go out of their way to convert those outsiders to insiders? Do they invite them into the personal dialogue? Does the customer get asked a single time if they need help then ignored for the duration? Or do they just get through the sale as quickly as possible so they can return to gabbing with the insiders over the vice? I'll state again...it has been my experience that fly shops fail miserably when compared to other forms of retail in this respect. For those that stand out, they will survive.
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This is marketing evolution and either your part of it or your not. Obviously it is an individual decision, some like myself like the shops where people were friendly and full of tips on where to fish and how to get there. Had tippet, rods, snips and flies on site. The internet is still a fad to some and a way of purchasing to others. Should life be different, maybe but in reality? It just is what ... more it is. Those who evolve stay in the game and those who don't? When I started fishing, you never heard a phone ring, books weren't taken on fishing trips on a kindle and there were no computers or digital cameras but they are here to stay in one form or another. If you don't try, you won't win! Boy! do I need to get on the water!
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Local fly shops need to adapt to the changing retail landscape just like everyone else. They need to find a way to be relevant and provide value or they will go away. Just the way it is.
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Tom Chandler: I’m curious what you think about the ProGuide Direct site, which kicks back a certain percentage of a sale to the guide when that guide refers a customer to the site. That will definitely keep the guides pushing their product. I personally will still refer them to the local fly shop. But Better yet, Why doesn't Simms just have a place on the form when you checkout that says, what ... more local fly shop do you support? And then simms cuts them a part of the sales at the end of the month. It would definitely keep the shops happy too.
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Utah Fly Fishing Guide: I do not sell any equipment, because I know what I am best at…guiding, not selling product. When my clients want gear I would point them to the local fly shop, I have a respect for them and really hope they have success in the retail market. I'm curious what you think about the ProGuide Direct site, which kicks back a certain percentage of a sale to the guide when ... more that guide refers a customer to the site.
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<<>> I used to own a fly shop. Sounds to me like you also owned a fly shop! Could not have said it any better myself. Simms is the most predatory FF vendor out there, bar none! This deal doesn't surprise me one bit.
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I am a guide and strictly a guide. I do not sell any equipment, because I know what I am best at...guiding, not selling product. When my clients want gear I would point them to the local fly shop, I have a respect for them and really hope they have success in the retail market. I feel like this is the value I give them for the information and convince value they provide me. In my opinion Simms is ... more pulling off a very risky move. I think they have a good reputation. But if local shops and guides stop promoting, that could go away quickly. I think that it is the experts in the field that have made simms...and now to take away this loyalty puts them at big risks.
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JJP: So, where in hell can I buy a new pair of waders that are made in America? I think Simms is the only one, though only some of the waders are made in the USA.
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The Fly Shop does have their own line of waders. Came out last year. I doubt many other shops could do this to combat direct sales, but I think its a great thing they have done, especially keeping the price down. I order stuff through Ted Fay that I could order anywhere else and have delivered to my doors with no tax and no shipping. But stopping into the shop and BS'ing a bit is as much a part of ... more the ritual of fishing as anything. I want to see my local shops succeed. I hope to never loose that.
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Anybody out there that enjoys reading should have seen this coming years ago! I cheer Simms for doing what I think is the right move. Small to medium fly shops are becoming a thing of the past and this move will just weed out the inferior. I have been using the internet on most if not all of my purchases for the past 5 years. Just my 2C
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I didn't realize Simms was so notorious for such practices. I suppose they're just lucky they have such a great product.
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Chris, both you and Steve Z make good points. Having worked in other industries that have rep networks, I know how nasty it can get between territoriality and bundling. (You have to take the junk to get the good stuff.) I also used the Internet before it was as easy as it is now. Try making yourself clear to an Italian or German supplier on the phone when an English email is more understood at either ... more end. I also found that Internet trade would soon be at least as important as direct or mail order sales. Therefore, while I loved retail, I'm glad that I' m not involved right now. The old adage that, "You're only as good as your last sale." has never been more true or cruel. Is it good for the consumer? I say, buy local first, read the label and the fine print, buy American if you can, buy from a craftsman when you can, and make or recycle what you can.
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One very important thing needs to be pointed out here. Orvis, through Leigh and Perk, have always made direct sales. First through catalogs, then Orvis-owned stores, and now the internet. They built their own customer base. Simms built its business by selling to fly shops, who recommended Simms products to their customers. Now KC Walsh wants to take those customers away from those dealers. Do you ... more want to talk about the bullying that went on in years past? The reps bundling products to the fly shops or else? Dealers had to buy products they didn't want in quantities that they couldn't sell, in order to get a product or two that they COULD sell. So maybe it is a good thing for the fly shops. The Fly Shop has already started selling its own brand of good fly rods. Maybe waders are next.
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It's a harsh reality that the retail landscape has changed and that things are going to be different. What amazes me most about fly shops, especially some of the better local ones, is how little internet business they do. There's this one fly shop near me, definitely the big boy in the area, that dabbles on ebay and has a website that purports to do commerce, but does it very poorly. Any fly shop ... more owner who doesn't hire someone to manage a robust online business - or even a marginal one that at least functions well - has left his lunch on the table for others to eat.
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Maybe all the shops that will lose revenue should get the appropriate alcohol licenses and put in a bar and man cave. I've never seen one, but always thought a combination bar/fly shop would be great. Then we could argue over fly patterns AND who makes the best IPA.
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This should not shock anyone that Simms is doing this. I have mixed feelings on it. We need to support local fly shops, which should be paramount to everyone. Yet, sometimes, to get the gear, direct, fresh, 2012. is very nice also. Tom's comment: momma didn’t raise no fools over there in Bozeman, is valid as well. Business is business. We need to here from more fly shop owners. I do love my local ... more fly shop.
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Maybe a couple thousand years; from fishing naked in the Alps to gorilla marketed, ultra competitive, jobbed out to China (or wherever) cut throat retail. Perhaps it is "evolution in action", but it sure ain't pretty! I just went to the fly show in Marlboro, MA. It was hyped as having the bigs back. NOT. Cloudveil is apparently gone or resting... And these folks are looking to choke a few more dollars ... more out of the eagle! It's a niche market and a hobby as well. I grew up thinking that fishing was an every man pastime. Who knew that it would become the province of the moneyed, the landed, the corporate? So, where in hell can I buy a new pair of waders that are made in America?
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Wow. Somebody gets an idea to tie some dead stuff on a bent wire. Tie the wire on a string. Put the string on a stick. Go fish with it. Slip on rocks, so make some shoes that have cleats on em. Hemorrhoids flare up when wet, so rubber pants get made. You guys made an industry out of this? I'm impressed. How long did it last?
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I'm blown away by the fact that people think they can purchase goods from dealer A and expect returns/exchanges at an unrelated dealer B? Does this really happen?
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Ouch. I wonder how much is the change in business model afforded by the Internet, versus change in economics afforded by a genuine depression (and the closing of many smaller shops). I wonder if the sluggish economy didn't tip their hand somewhat. ... and we'll have to pay sales tax on the purchase (if the Marketplace Fairness Act is successful).
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Absolutely. But that doesn't make it any less ridiculous, and now it will be even more widespread. I don't want to give the wrong impression - shops should be service oriented. It's the one way that they can have an advantage over online sales. But when the shop is left doing the "servicing" for a company's direct sales, where is the advantage for the shop, that balances the time and effort spent ... more on handling returns which didn't even represent any revenue? The only thing that you can hope for is that you might convince the customer in the future to buy in person from the shop, so that they can try things on before buying, and that get experienced advice. But on the other hand, as long as you're accommodating their online purchase/return, and minimizing the hassle for them, you're not doing yourself any favors.
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I don't mean to be flip, but aren't they already dealing with that via the other online sales channels? I don't know how shops handle returns, though I do remember an Orvis dealer complaining that someone had bought two-sizes small wading boots from a closeout outlet, then wanted to trade them in for the correct size at his shop.
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And another impact of this that dealers will have to bear the brunt of - returns. How many people will now be buying direct online, discovering that they didn't get the right size, and rather than paying return shipping, will go to their local Simms dealer to deal with it?
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You guys are making some good points. I don't think this will affect consumers overmuch, who can already buy Simms products via multiple channels (fly shops, big boxes, bargain outlets). One more probably won't tip over a bunch of dealers, though I think the *dealers* will now wonder just a bit more why Simms is a competitor -- and what's next for them. That said, dealers have long enjoyed their protected ... more territories, and now they're finding out they have to make a go of it in a vastly, less protected landscape. We're already seeing the results.
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pete b: I suggest that a storeroom full of Simms gear and some kind of supplier understanding will not save a shop whose mission isn’t completely clear: How can we help this fisherman? And I would suggest that a storeroom full of Simms gear and some kind of supplier understanding will not save a vendor whose reason for success isn’t completely clear: how do we continue to maintain our reputation ... more without real, experienced people on the ground, willing to explain the benefits of our products, in person, to customers? Who will help fit them? Who will speak about their personal experience using such products? This isn't about health and beneficial competition. It's about a variety of competing venues being created for the same product, as a result of a company's desire to be as big as possible.
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I like a market, and I like competition. When it's that way then the consumer can use the selling price as a fair indicator of the quality level he'd be getting. Nobody is expecting Simms to go direct-only. There will be shops around, and sometimes their advice will be good to have and the sales will happen. I suggest that a storeroom full of Simms gear and some kind of supplier understanding will ... more not save a shop whose mission isn't completely clear: How can we help this fisherman?
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Ralph C: Simms is not in competition with their dealers, they are in competition with Orvis, Patagonia, Dan Bailey, and Redington all who sell direct and three of which have their own B&M outlets. I think there is an air of inevitability about the fall of protected dealers, though I think a dealer would be justified in asking why Simms was doing this when there are already a lot of places you ... more can buy Simms gear online (including big boxes and bargain outlets like Red Truck and the Sierra Trading Post). And yes, I do think Simms would be better served by not trying to coat this in warm caramel syrup; suggesting they're simply plugging a "void" online (I'm not sure I see it) feels like a stretch, as does the suggestion that dealers will eventually benefit from the unveiling of yet another direct channel (one that benefits Simms in terms of increased margins). It certainly felt like a stretch to the two dealers I spoke to. I agree the old model is collapsing, and that the protected dealer is pretty much a fiction at this point. I think there's an argument to be made that Simms has benefited hugely from the specialty fly shops, and that this move makes them (marginally) less valuable to a dealer.
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Jeff: Now with this development, fly shop owners should stop being strong-armed by it’s vendors to sell at the MSRP. Let the shops decide when to have a sale or how much margin is required to keep the lights on. I think the biggest effect of Internet sales has been to give people a lot of choices about where to buy their gear, but the second biggest has been the rise of bargain outlets, which have ... more allowed at least some of the dealers (and as Singlebarbed noted in a few posts from years ago) several of the manufacturers a covert outlet for bargain gear. This makes it very difficult for manufacturers to control pricing in any place except the specialty fly shop. It's an unfortunate reality of online sales.
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If the local shops are essential, they’ll be fine. If only it were a matter of such simple, lassez-faire economics. Shops ARE essential. Simms would never survive on internet sales alone if shops go away. But it really isn't a matter of, "if they're essential they're fine, and if they're not, they'll die." The reality of it is more complex. It's entirely possible to have a shop that is essential, ... more but that still can't cut it, because of vendors (the very same vendors that built their reputations on such shops) now over-saturating the market.
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JUST A NOTE ABOUT DISCUSSIONS HERE: Hit the "Reply" button you see on the screen when you're replying to a specific comment -- that will "thread" the comment underneath the original, which makes discussions about specific points easier to follow...
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pete b: How the manufacturer works with his retailers is not my business. What is my business is enjoying fishing and having gear that performs. I want them to worry most about that. Retail is having a Darwinian experience. Fair enough on the first point, and clearly, you're right about the second (which is sorta the point of my post). There is a lot of lip service paid to specialty shops, but ... more the continuing disappearance of many of them has a feel of inevitability about it.
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Mark + Wiz: I’m still bummed that they sold out thier employees and are making the cheaper models in CHINA! I don't know the specifics, but aren't they pretty much the only wader company making anything in the USA? It would be great if more gear were made here, but not many companies can command Simms' prices...
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Mark V: Whoa. Well, honestly, why should a retailer stock Simms anymore? In fairness, a dealer would stock Simms because they make good stuff, and lest we forget, most all the other brands (Patagonia, Redington, Orvis, Bailey, etc) are available direct anyway. This is just another example of that "exclusive" dealer model folding under the weight of the Internet...
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Jasper Dogwood: Absolutely. Shops can’t let the terms of everything be dictated to them. It’s time they start standing up and putting their foot down about what is unacceptable. And any bets how long before Simms, despite it’s assurances to the contrary, begins to do retail out of their big fancy new building? I believe I remember a time of similar assurances that they would never sell in the ... more big box stores, either. And Pete C. – it’s really hard to even know where to begin with your “I’m just a consumer, and that’s all I care about” mentality. If you can’t see how much of the overall health of the industry resides on the backs of local shops, then I don’t really know how to break it down for you. I don't plan to get in the middle of the Simms-to-retailer deal in all it's complexity, is what I said. I provide the money, they can work out good ways to provide good gear to me. Some sort of supply channel exclusivity does not serve me best, as I see it. If the gear performance or cost breaks down that does not serve me well either. It is not a matter of consumer arrogance, it is why the business exists. If the local shops are essential, they'll be fine. We see this with Nikon in photography and The Gap in apparel, for other good examples at the high end. Some segments of the market are best served online to avoid silly stocking at lots of retail stops.
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Jeff: Now with this development, fly shop owners should stop being strong-armed by it’s vendors to sell at the MSRP. Let the shops decide when to have a sale or how much margin is required to keep the lights on. Absolutely. Shops can't let the terms of everything be dictated to them. It's time they start standing up and putting their foot down about what is unacceptable. And any bets how long before ... more Simms, despite it's assurances to the contrary, begins to do retail out of their big fancy new building? I believe I remember a time of similar assurances that they would never sell in the big box stores, either. And Pete C. - it's really hard to even know where to begin with your "I'm just a consumer, and that's all I care about" mentality. If you can't see how much of the overall health of the industry resides on the backs of local shops, then I don't really know how to break it down for you.
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Now with this development, fly shop owners should stop being strong-armed by it's vendors to sell at the MSRP. Let the shops decide when to have a sale or how much margin is required to keep the lights on. Unfortunately with aggressive internet shops having sales of 20.00 off your order, free shipping, no sales tax, and manufacturers selling direct - I can see this being the straw that broke the backs ... more of many of our small local shops and flipping the closed sign -forever.
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Simms is not in competition with their dealers, they are in competition with Orvis, Patagonia, Dan Bailey, and Redington all who sell direct and three of which have their own B&M outlets. That Simms allowed themselves to be on the low end of an unlevel playing field for so long was a surprise to me. This move was inevitable and, I believe, not so much an issue of insatiable greed as much as it ... more is recognition of how the market is changing. If I were a dealer I'd be much more concerned with the Red Truck model than by a manufacture who sells direct at MSRP.
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You're a top manufacturer, you've got to have a great website that looks good and does everything you can think of. Want this good stuff? Go see one of these guys or click here, it's all the same to us. How the manufacturer works with his retailers is not my business. What is my business is enjoying fishing and having gear that performs. I want them to worry most about that. Retail is having a Darwinian ... more experience.
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I'm still bummed that they sold out thier employees and are making the cheaper models in CHINA!
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I've spent the last decade and a half of my life as a retail buyer (not in the FF industry, department stores, and TV retail) the internet has fundamentally changed the face of retail forever and we're just starting to see the results..... I'm adamant about supporting the local fly shops for the same reasons others mention...fellowship, service, knowledge.... I'm very much a traditionalist and so ... more the gonzo go fast marketing of Simms and Sage do nothing for me but I do understand the math of these companies needing to survive and grow ..... There will be fly shops that survive all of this with great service, particularly in destination fishing areas, but sadly the white haired guy at Bill Clay's in Nashville that sold me my first Thompson vise at the age of 9 and then showed me how to tie a wooly bugger on it are mostly past.... Bill Clay's is just one of hundreds of shops that live only in memory.... An interesting topic Tom and sure to become more so....
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I stayed with the same shop for 15 years and those were all good years and I would not trade those years for anything. The shop owners were always willing to go the extra mile and always had information on fly fishing in Maine. They retired and I sorely miss the shop. The industry has been permanently effected by the internet and marketing has shifted from a warm personal touch to the more efficient ... more and impersonal internet. Because of the decline in local friendly shops one has no or little alternative but to shop online. This year I buy more online than I ever have but still buy from shops owned and operated by people I know. There is a shop in Montana that I buy from online and get, I feel better service and individual attn. than you get from drifting around the internet. I guess my point is buy from shops first and if they don't have what you need you can always order from a manufacturer.
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Whoa. Well, honestly, why should a retailer stock Simms anymore? The competition and restrictions, as noted in the article, placed upon retailers make it more hassle than it is worth. If i was an owner, i would box it all up and send it back(if allowed. lol, right) or let me stock sell out and not reorder. It very well may be the way of the future but if a company like Simms wants their products placed ... more in a brick and motor retail outlet, they need to sweeten the pot for the guy taking the risks running the store. Seems to me there is no plus to selling such gear in your store beyond the brand name hunters to look at your gear then go buy elsewhere...
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I work for a manufacturer in a fairly competitive segment of the outdoor market. Many of us have been moving toward direct sales for several years. Much of what KC Walsh says is very true and a compelling reason to move to a direct model as a manufacturer. And at the same time, many of the criticisms and concerns voiced by our retailer partners ring true. I guess in the end it comes down to intent. ... more In our case, and many others, it is about brand identity and servicing the loyal customer. In others, it is about the money. In the former, when executed properly, it presents a win-win for the manufacturer and the retailer because the consumer is better educated about the products and experience shows that this knowledge and experience can reduce price sensitivity. That's why we sell our products direct at full price. In the latter, its just greed and benefits no one. As more manufacturers sell direct, the competition for that retail dollar will increase. Yes, some retail shops, need I say lesser shops, will get hit hard by this new channel of competition. But looking at the results after a few years of direct selling in the outdoor industry shows that the gloom and doom may be a bit over-hyped. Topline sales surveys issued by the OIA (Outdoor Industry Association) clearly show that specialty retail has held its own against internet and direct sales, while big box has taken the brunt of the hits. The defining factor is SERVICE. And not just fast shipping or responsive customer service reps. I am talking about friendly with a smile, informative, let me help you no matter how much you are spending service. Service is the one item that cannot be purchased over the internet and is the best way to build loyalty. Without service, you are just another retailer competing in the arena that big box and internet dominate - price. This brings me to a point of contention. As someone who has visited many hundreds of retail establishments in a career spanning more than 20 years, why is it that I have experienced an alarmingly high level of marginal service in fly shops? I guarantee that almost all of us have visited a fly shop in our journeys where we have felt uninvited, almost intrusive, as we have walked around the shop hunting for intel or small items. Hey, I get it. Fly fishing is a pretentious sport dominated by a clientele that exist in the upper echelon of the socio-economic scale and I am just a dirt-bag fly fisher trying to enjoy my hobby on as few dollars as possible. Fortunately, there are shops who go out of their way to wow you with friendliness and service, and it is these shops that will win against new channels of competition as well as competitors only competing on price.
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A few years ago, I priced Simms waders at a fly shop - nearly $800. The price for exactly the same waders online, delivered from the states, with email advice re sizing and an offer to exchance if wrong? $320. Do the math.
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I will support my local shop until I cannot any longer. Service, camraderie, shooting the shtuff, all things that cannot be replaced. Plus, I shudder to think of how I would have determined the sizing for my Sasquatch footed waders without my local shop.
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It does make me a bit sad. I understand the world is changing and all, but fly shops are special places to me and as more and more close, I can't help but feel poorer for it, as an angler.
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All I'm gonna say is that I' glad I'm not a fly shop owner.
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