chi wulff,    fly fishing industry

The Simms Direct Sales Saga Continues.

Posted by Tom Chandler 4/15/2012

After I wrote and posted the Trout Underground's article about Simms' decision to sell direct (the piece was not well received at Simms), I pointed the Undergrounders towards an interesting blog post by Craig, MT fly shop owner Jerry Lappier, which didn't cut Simms any slack.

Today, I read this very perceptive Chi Wulff blog piece about Lappier's latest article, where the fly shop owner reveals Simms pulled his dealership four days after he posted the above-mentioned article.

Hmm.

Here's an excerpt from The Trout Shop owner Lappier's most-recent (and lengthy) piece:

Instead of a supportive relationship, Simms “believes I am intent upon damaging their brand that they have worked so hard to develop”. With a hefty existing Simms inventory on hand at The Trout Shop, damaging the Simms brand seems foolish. Any damage to the Simms brand, I believe, starts within Simms’ own hierarchy. I disagree with their assertion and am only critical of Simms’ distribution polices. As I told Simms, I do not support their previous distribution policy changes, their present distribution policy or their future distribution policies. They are correct in their belief that our relationship was going nowhere and needed to end.

Simms was disappointed that I didn’t call or e-mail anyone at Simms before posting a 4,000 word blog that was largely critical of their company. They took things personally rather than accepting a challenge and changing. Simms did not feel obligated to consult with any fly shops before they radically changed their distribution policy by agreeing to sell to Cabela’s and other national accounts. Nor did they consult with The Trout Shop before they opened a competing fly shop two doors away. In fact, I was told that opening a dealer a stone’s throw away from us was Simms’ business and not The Trout Shop’s. Opening a new dealer in Craig would prove to be good for the brand. Nor did Simms consult with any fly shops before they decided to sell direct to the public via their web site. Nor did The Trout Shop consult with Simms before publishing a 4,000 word blog that was largely critical of their company and was aimed directly at their distribution policies. Communication is a two-way street. It’s frustrating when the street only goes one-way.

First, these things are always messy. Rarely are they clear cut. And as Lappier notes, the relationship was souring on both ends, so it's not as if anyone is being put out on the street.

Still, it's a behind-the-scenes glimpse at a fly fishing industry that is far different from the happy, arms-linked-as-we-march-together-into-the-future picture commonly painted for the angling public.

A guy who wrote his first commercial writing assignments on a typewriter probably doesn't have to remind you the world is changing, and that the fly fishing industry -- which suffers a more tortured sales/distribution model than most -- is being forced to change with it.

That change is rarely without some bloodletting, though it's also clear it's an industry largely unfamiliar with a lot of independent voices (it's good that Chi Wulff is one of those voices).

See you happily doing anything but reporting on the industry, 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.

20 comments
Cabela's is notorious for squeezing taxpayer subsidies out of every location they've ever done business in. Not paying their fair share of local and state taxes is why their business model is so "successful." Look it up.
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As a former "Pro Shop" owner, I can attest that carring the signature stuff like Simms can be demoralizing when it turns up in the pages of Cabela's or when suddenly the shop down the road is now selling the same stuff for less. If your going to stay in the game, what you need to sell is you! And you will prosper. tw
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Tom, Obviously Simms is counting on direct sales revenue/profit being larger than loss of revenue due to retail fly shops getting pissed, but they may or may not have factored in everything. If I may digress, there is some debate in the internet technology space as to if Amazon's dominance of the "Cloud" space is a good thing or not. Many many startups are now using Amazon's services as their launch ... more platform. One fear (pointed out by Cringley and others) is that Amazon need not steal directly a start-ups technology, but by knowing the back-end details they can for example determine how much value a particular service (or product) has. Cabelas selling Simms? Are Cabelas waders and/or their other fly fishing products going to better or more marketing dollars from information gained from the sale of Simms products? Yip. Loss for Simms in business, likely. The only way to ensure that the local guy or small operation gets your business because you respect them is to give them your business. When a company becomes big... well, their big. Don't think we should expect otherwise.
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KC Biehn: Simms is a company and they have to do what is necessary to stay alive, selling to Cabela’s my god they have gone to the dark side and I will never buy a Simms product again. Please they are just doing what it takes to stay on the cutting edge and to, I know this sounds evil and all, but to make some money! AGREED! And why is Cabela's such the evil empire?? I have personally been inside ... more two western Cabela's locations, Reno NV and Lehi UT, and have experienced better service in those shops than in other fly shops visited in my journeys. I certainly cannot assume that all their locations provide superior service, but corporate cultures run deep.
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I do support my local fly shops when I can but they are becoming a thing of the past. The fly shop and Leland are two great examples of how a shop must change to stay in the business. The biggest question is how much of the business in these shops are from the internet? I know for a fact I have bought many items from each shop and I have never stepped foot in either one. These two shops have become ... more monsters on the web and will continue to grow because of the computer. I for one do not like to shop by the internet but the times force me to do so, I am not able to drive 4 or 5 hours when I need a pack of hooks or some feathers. The fact that we are all missing is that Simms is a leader in the industry and for them to grow they need to make hard choices. Some shops will get bloodied in this battle but the bottom line is making money to continue to grow and support the industry. I own Simms waders and have been happy with them, not really sure if I would buy anything else if I had the choice. Last, not really sure about the they sell to Costco and Cabela's attitude? Two companies doing something right and carrying brand names. I see nothing wrong with these two stores? Just two more venues to buy a quality product at a better price and let the better store win. I know I sound evil and all that but markets change and some people don't, others do and benefit from the changes. KC
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Watching sales & distribution channels implode isn't exactly a new sport -- a lot of industries lead fly fishing when it comes to experiencing the crunch. It's not a matter of "if" it's going to happen. It's more a matter of how gracefully it's done (e.g. -- who gets thrown under the bus in the process), and in an industry largely built on protected dealer territories (which suddenly got a lot less ... more valuable when online sales and big boxes got formerly off-limits product), there's bound to be some bleeding. The book industry is suffering (a bunch of publishing CEOs even recently agreed their existing model wasn't sustainable) because authors now have direct access to distribution and even readers -- and they never really had to contend with protected dealer territories. You can see how in many ways, fly fishing is actually worse off, especially since there aren't nearly as many players. Ouch.
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I know nothing about marketing or marketing channels, but this protracted discussion is really interesting to me, on several levels. I asked on another forum about cross-references to other industries, it's interesting to see the comment above re: tires (never would have considered that). The information on maturation of marketing and distribution channels is thougth-provoking, at least to me. With ... more all that in mind, I'm curious, does any manufacturer other than Simms use Gore-Tex in their waders/apparel? Better mousetrap, and all that. JB
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Sounds like Simms learned a thing or two from the tire business. 30 years ago they all turned into wh***es and started selling to Costco, etc., etc.. They build their businesses on the backs of small business people and then the stab you in the back. It seems as though big business is too big for small business. Companies like Simms don't look upon this as a win-win situation. Once they get enough ... more market share they feel that their "brand" is what sells the merchandise, not the little guy in his fly shop. The guy in the fly shop will survive just like we did in our "little" tire shop. Fly shops will find a better brand at a better price point to recommend to their customers,or Simms will begin to market a similar product at a different price point to be sold "exclusively at professional fly shops". Take a look at what "The Fly Shop" in Redding, CA is doing with all of their private label offerings. Leland is taking a similar approach. Some people do business with brands, others do business with people. Enough of my rant. I'll think twice before I buy Simms products again. Support small local business!
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Not surprising... I know Jerry and he's a hard-working, dedicated guy who does a great service for all of us who fish the big Mo, and he's been doing it for years. I know, as i use to guide over there about 15 years ago - now i just go for fun. On the other hand, there is not a piece of Simms gear in my stable. I found them to be arrogant elitists and their gear did not suit, and it wasn't just the ... more price... I love my Loomis and Lamiglas gear and i'm here to tell you they are great to work with - always! Why anyone would go with the Montrose Mafia is beyond me, especially in light of their recent actions.
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Aint that the truth. Marketing model regardless, it's been years since I bought anything from Simms. I would suggest that if Simms wants to maintain their market share they ought to start building a quality product again. At the least they might consider the concept of affordability...
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The Marine sanctuaries are polarizing, though it's interesting that with all the issues facing fishermen, allying yourself with the wholly underwhelming Keep America Fishing group (read their section on California's salmon crisis) is a curious choice indeed. Plenty of fishermen support the protected areas; almost all the west's coasts fisheries are getting hammered.
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Their waders still leak like any other, unless you pay something like $700. In which case you're insane.
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On a little different topic regarding Simms. I was a little miffed about their large format new catalog and the discussion about the establishment of marine protection areas in CA. It seemed their commentary was way off mark. Sure environmental groups and public agencies can do bad things but it is not as if the commercial fishing interests have the fish or the public in mind when they did not want ... more the protection areas established. I emailed them a comment about the discussion in the catalog and they did not even have the decency to respond.
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Read all the stuff linked, and it's clear that many shops and the Association aren't handling the public too well. That model fails here.
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I guess the rub here is that Simms is poking their dealers in the eye with a stick and then asking the dealers why they're all rubbing their eyes. But at the end of the day, I agree. Simms is just following the money and as some fly shop owners will tell you that's not in their shops.
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Patrick: Could Simms be chasing the well-oiled Orvis model? I don't think so -- at least no in anything approaching the short term. Years ago I was laughed at (really) when I said that Orvis -- after kinda stinking things up in the 90s -- was going to again rule the fly fishing world as they had the right model for the Internet age. Simms can do all the content marketing they want (and it's a good ... more idea, if late), but it doesn't endow them with the kind of boots-on-the-ground direct marketing expertise that Orvis has long held. You don't acquire that overnight, nor is Simms in a position to start seeding company stores in key areas. If they're chasing the Orvis model, I suggest they're off to a slow start.
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I have tried to stay out of this but I just have to say, what did people expect? This is 2012!!!!! Like it or not the world is changing and changing fast. Good example would be the book industry, where is it heading? All going to the internet. I really could not tell you when the last time I made a substantial purchase at a fly shop. Most of the time I go to a fly shop the selection sucks at best ... more and I'm probably there for advice on flies or where to fish. Simms is a company and they have to do what is necessary to stay alive, selling to Cabela's my god they have gone to the dark side and I will never buy a Simms product again. Please they are just doing what it takes to stay on the cutting edge and to, I know this sounds evil and all, but to make some money! Bottom line is we live in a digital world and it's not going to change! I hold no hard feelings toward Simms for making a hard choice, the better they do the better the products they will produce.
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Leo: I’ve wondered why entities, like Simms, don’t credit their direct sales to a local shop; that way the local guy isn’t getting screwed. Obviously, a compromise is needed. A few years ago, Redington attempted something similar with Shopatron, though a visit to the Redington site today reveals what appears to be a standard shopping cart. In other words, I don't think it worked for them.
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First, a caveat that I’m only a very casual (and only modestly informed) observer… Could Simms be chasing the well-oiled Orvis model? Only anecdotal evidence though: the move to direct sales, the launch in February of Simms’ WadingRoom.com, a YouTube channel that’s gotten some renewed attention of late, albeit only video shorts from the 2011 Ice Out Shoot Out. Next, perhaps a podcast hosted by Ms. ... more Bristol?
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I've wondered why entities, like Simms, don't credit their direct sales to a local shop; that way the local guy isn't getting screwed. Obviously, a compromise is needed.
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