Fly Fishing,    fly rod,    Underground Entertainment,    wintson fly rod

Winston Fly Rod Company Lays Off Workers, Cites Economic Conditions

Posted by Tom Chandler 12/10/2008

Scott Fly Rods suffered layoffs early in 2008, and now it's Winston's turn to stand in the unemployment line; the fly rod company is laying off production employees due to slumping sales - a sign of a weak economy according to CEO Woody Woodward:

Woodard said projections for sales next year show they should drop, based on economic data. Winston dealers are not ordering as many rods as the recession in the United States and the ripple effect throughout the global economy have slowed consumer spending. The company does not expect to need to produce as many fly rods in the coming year.

"The uncertainty is so great that people just aren't going into fly shops," Woodard said.

See WINSTON, Page A5 "That's all the indications we're getting and we have to reduce personnel accordingly." The layoffs took effect last week.

Winston Rod moved to Twin Bridges in 1976, and sells bamboo rods, which retail for around $3,000 each, and less expensive graphite fly rods.

(The Underground is deeply amused at the last sentence, which suggests Winston is a bamboo fly rod manufacturer who also happens to sell graphite fly rods.)

Even before the economy cratered, the fly fishing industry witnessed several years of marginal (or zero) growth, and it's likely we'll see more companies take unpleasant measures in order to survive.

Winston is also one of the oldest continuously operating fly rod companies, and "Prestige" fly rod manufacturers might be feeling the pinch of lower-priced, foreign-built fly rods (like TFO) - a trend that could accelerated by a tough economy.

What's the Undergrounder opinion? Is this simply a blip on the recession radar, or are tougher times in store for an already-stagnant fly gear market?

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.

34 comments
I'm curious why there's a guy from China selling what are supposedly Winston Ascent fly rods on Ebay for $99.00..... they come with no tube, no sock or Winston warranty. When are Americans( and US Companies) going to stand up and tell these Chinese manufacturers to stick their inferior products where the sun don't shine, please, is nothing sacred anymore. If Winston Rod Co. is in fact now manufacturing ... more their products in China, therefore causing hardworking Americans in Montana to lose their livelihoods....I will NEVER buy another Winston product as long as I live and I will request others in my fly fishing clubs amp; associations to please do the same. I don't mind paying $250.00 to $1500.00 for a Winston rod....as long as they are made in the US by US workers. This is why I want to know if they are now, in fact, manufacturing Rods in China. I reported this possible copyright infringement to Winston Rod Co. they said is they're looking into it???? They did not answer my question regarding Chinese manufacturing.
0
0
Chris Roche: Is Winston currently manufacturing their Ascent line of fly rods in China? Can anyone give a straight and factual Yes or No answer? That's a question for Winston. Didn't they used to have a public forum on their Web site?
0
0
Is Winston currently manufacturing their Ascent line of fly rods in China? Can anyone give a straight and factual Yes or No answer?
0
0
[...] like the Winston Rod Co. is laying off workers due to these stellar economic conditions we#8217;re currently [...]
0
0
I love the "Darwinism" thing.... Perhaps its time to lose some of the old and infirm... adapt or die! The following is *my own firm belief, comments, etc and I am solely responsible for all content and know it to be true to the best of my knowledge so help me Big Monster Trout!* Recently retired from my "real day job", I have been working for Orvis, Barnsley Gardens as a casting instructor/guide and ... more the local Orvis shop in Chattanooga, TN in roughly the same capacity. We have two fly shops here and one "Big Box" operator. The big box boys have no one with any experience in their shop... you may come away with a 8ft 9wt and a 3 wt fly line mounted on an open face spin reel. The other shop has people with roughly the same experience, but I hear unsettling things on the wind. They no longer carry fly tying materials just when we have doubled what we carry. Jobbers tell us they will not buy from them if we carry the same product. Lodges I have worked with for decades (I used to work for a major airline in outdoor sports marketing) tell me they get calls trying to undermine our relationship (and these are Orvis endorsed lodges). What ever happened to the days when you could send a good customer over to the "other" shop and not have them be subjected to "real anglers don't use Orvis equipment"? When things are that bad, it hurts the sport and the customer and the economy is not going to get better unless we can work together. Fly fishing elitist? Hey, blame it on marketing! The avid flyfishers around here wade wet in the summer even in near freezing mountain streams... shorts and t shirts and rusty pickup trucks. No Volvos around here. As for kids.... Come to one of the Orvis Father/Son or Mother/Daughter Fly Fishing classes I teach. The same goes for our fly tying classes. The result?.... our business in the shop is up double digits this year and we are projected to match it or do better in 2009. Again... the answer is just like Darwin said.... adapt or die. Regards all John
0
0
I used to believe that fly fishing was an elitest sport. For the pipe and Volvo crowd. As I've gotten older (matured), I've come to like what the sport, at its core, really stands for. There are elitest in every market, demographic and subculture. You hardly meet people who, at one time, just loved to do something for the love of it. Now, as in times past, people take things to the "nth" degree, trying ... more to find the edges of the paper and expand it if you will. That part doesn't bother me as much as those, in the business or not, who make it hard for the little guy to just learn and enjoy something, whether it's fly fishing or bowling. I've said it all along and I maintain my position: just about any problem, for the most part, has existed before, we're just hearing about it more. The media outlets, and their competition, spoon it up daily. Fifty years ago, news didn't travel as fast, so things that happened never got out unless it was rumor. Now, it's in your face. Rememer, what lies before us and lies behind us is small matter compared to what lies right to our face. As far as Winston goes, I'm not a big fan. Not that they make a rod I wouldn't fish, I just can't afford it. Rods of that price and calibre is a small niche market and the niche is getting smaller by the second. I'm a St. Croix guy, but I'll fish anything if I can afford it and cast it. It's easy to take pot shots at the big guy who have large pricetags. Perception is reality, no matter what. I think it's great what Winston is trying to do to keep employees. I'd have that rather than an employer who casts off employees like used paper clips and state, "It's nothing personal." It is personal, you're effecting people, so it's personal. You have to have some bad times to appreciate the good times....balance, it's all about balance.
0
0
Turnip: I think your points are well taken. Any discussion about the industry would be fairly wide-ranging. I'm a marketing guy and see these things from a marketing angle, but posts earlier this year drew some responses from fly shops (inluding several private emails) about the industry's treatment of small fly shops, and the emails weren't all that happy, if you catch my drift. A lot will have to ... more change - in fly fishing and the world at large. I guess that's what the discussion's really about. Merry Christmas to you too!
0
0
I used the term, elitist because it became fashionable in a Wikipedia sort of way, during our most recent political season to describe those in the majority who seemed to be opposed to change. Many of your contributors including yourself have identified some of those above. The fly fishing industry seems stodgy to me, much in the same ways as the auto industry. Not all will survive for what I believe ... more to be two reasons: First, it is most difficult to compete with a giant labor cost disparity and second the companies have done a very poor job of bringing new customers into the market on behalf of their dealers, the local fly shops. I referenced the followers of The Drake and This Is Fly as a new wave in the industry. I read and do enjoy their every issue. Their presentations may be the future but I am not sure I want them handing out Deet and taking my grandkids on a float trip. I am almost 68 years old and I love the sport. I am not sure what the future holds but these discussions make it worth continuing to seek improvements. Your discussions are great, filled with enjoyable intelligence, humor and cynicism. Oh, and the occasional how-to's are good too. Merry Christmas to you and your readers.
0
0
Michael: True enough. Greg: Be interesting to know about Drukman for sure - could be an indication of internal unrest or even an ongoing purge of the old guard. Turnip: I appreciate your perspective, but don't know if I buy your enire argument. I keep hearing the term "elitist" thrown about, but I don't really even know what it means. The tweedy rich guy is often held up as proof, but he's more icon ... more than reality, and hasn't represented the core market of fly fishing for decades (if he ever did). If you mean the industry is elitist because the it focuses overmuch on $750 fly rods and $10,000 trips to exotic locations, then I'd agree on the focus if not the terminology. Where the wheels come off for me is the youth bit; introducing kids to any outdoor sport is likely a good idea, but the Drake and This is Fly are hardly aimed at the teen crowd, which means we're talking about adults. The industry is already funding the recent tidal wave of extreme videos, and it's likely the return on investment of those projects qualifies them as "charity," at least from a marketing perspective. Then there's the Internet, where almost anyone can publish their thoughts, and the readership of this blog is proof of that - there's no way my perspective finds a home on pre-Internet fly fishing media, and fast-growing Singlebarbed would have been held up as an example of things that go bump in the night. What comes next for the industry should prove interesting, and yes, I think a shakeout is true. It's also likely other manufacturers are seeing significant slowdowns, but their layoffs aren't finding their way to the news. Thanks for a thought-provoking comment.
0
0
Baseball survives because of Little League. The NFL and universities prosper because of Pop Warner leagues. The NBA promotes youth activities. The PGA has developed First Tee. Fly fishing is elitist with no real emphasis by the aforementioned companies to entice the young into their markets. Oh, fly fishing clubs do a fair job with our youth considering their budgets, but where are profiteers? One ... more per cent for the earth, okay. What about one per cent for young people? Every company that sells a fly fishing product should be banning together to fund a youth initiative......... yeah, that's it...........a Youth Czar. You want more evidence, just read the thoughts of the most recent generation to enter the "group" sport of fly fishing. Read "The Drake" or "This Is Fly" and you'll get your answer.
0
0
I went over to the Sweetgrass website in order to contact Glenn Bracket about the local day care center he helps support there in Twin Bridges. I can't afford their bamboo rods but out of curiosity I read through the profiles of the "Boo Boys" and I read that Sam Drukman has joined Sweetgrass and is turning out graphite and glass rods. Wasn't Drukman the rod designer for Winston not too long ago?
0
0
Classic macroeconomics. Lower demand. Higher supply. Move the price down and see if demand goes up. Simple. I think many of us are entering an era of smaller profit margins, and unfortunately those of us in the the "luxury" or "discretional" spending category are most vulnerable. shannon
0
0
The fly fishing industry............ Darwinism at its best.
0
0
As long as we're talkin' little guys lets not forget Mark Steffen, Kerry Burkheimer and Bob Meiser to name a few. I hope they can hang in there. Being curious I moseyed over to the Winston website to see what the guys on their forum had to say about the layoffs. Other than the usual socially correct expressions of "Gee, that's tough" there wasn't much in the comments that questioned Winston's actions ... more or judgement. Maybe there were some posted and Winston scrubbed them off.
0
0
I think the fact that nobody from the core industry under scrutiny here bothered engaging in this conversation is a testament to their problems. Great stuff.
0
0
Now 40 Rivers (the former Daytripper reincarnated) weighs in.
0
0
We've finally bumped into an area of expertise with which I'm completely unfamiliar-marketing. I've owned several Winston rods, and I like them. Sorry to hear they are having tough times, and evern sorrier to hear about the employees who will face a jobless Christmas. My best wishes to them. I hope they can keep the faith; they'll make it somehow. Aside from that, I really have nothing to say. Where's ... more Wally?
0
0
I think we can expect to see a significant change in the landscape - fewer big box and fewer small fly shops. I don't see the Internet as an issue - largely because it so accessible that vendors large and small can deploy websites and commerce far in excess of their physical size and location. What hurts most is the archaic rod manufacturer's Golden Rule, "if you discount you will be cut off." Orvis ... more discounts all their old inventory at pennies on the dollar, leaving vendors high and dry. Hard times are coming, it'll remove all of the marginally profitable stores - as purchases of luxury items are the first thing lopped off the family budget. We'll be going fishing less - in part because we're working more, or lack a job and don't have discretionary income. The credit crunch has only started to hit. Banks are reluctant to assume any risk to their balance sheets - and 10% of home owners are likely charging the mortgage payment to their credit card. Once the screws start to tighten on personal credit and consumers with large credit balances - we can expect to see luxury sales drop off a cliff. I figure Orvis and Sage will make it - everyone else is toast. That's just fine, I like Echo - the low cost alternative - at least one of these companies should increase their market share at the expense of the big boys. Like Jet Blue or any of these lean, hungry, entrepreneurs - they'll repopulate the landscape quickly enough. The existing makers are akin to Ford, Chrysler, and GM - and have had the luxury of throwing weight around - as no one trusted them "foreign imports." Now that Toyota, Nissan, and Honda are household names - the Big Three appeal to us with, "why don't you like us?" Sage, Scott, Loomis, etc - have the luxury of our fear of "the foreign rod blank" - but that'll last about 1-3 years, by then their tackle was knock crap out of the fat cat stuff - be 1/4 the price, and come in 9 lengths and 6 colors. Adapt or Die, and I expect to see a lot of rod companies eating the bullet - and to me, that's just fine.
0
0
Big box stores are a favorite whipping boy of the fly fishing crowd. I'm guilty as well and I prefer small shops whenever that's an option, but the main reason they prosper is because they don't have to make a killing on fly fishing gear. It's one more thing for them to sell, but their fly fishing departments are certainly less profitable than general tackle, hunting equipment, clothing, and shoes. ... more Small fly shops might have ball caps and a t-shirt, but they rely on fly tackle to survive. They may pay more for the same equipment, but most large fly shops pay the same wholesale price as big boxes for the same gear. Greg Hall is dead on when he says the small shop has the opportunity to excel with customer service, even though many lack in that department.
0
0
I agree with Corvus in regard to how Winston is treating their employees. It can't be cheap to make it through the winter in Twin Bridges and to do layoffs just before Christmas says a lot for the values of management and ownership. Management should do everything they can to keep their people working but given the actions they have already taken the only way that they will change is if they have ... more personality transplants. One of the ways fly shops have been hurt by the internet is that customers come in and cast some rods, look over the reels and then go home and buy the same stuff on ebay for 20% to 40% less than the shop price. The shops are prohibited by most of their vendors from discounting so they really can't compete very well. Where they can be of real value to their customers is in providing real personalized service. Unfortunately a lot of shop owners and staff just don't know how to treat their customers in a way that communicates to the customer that they are being recognized as an individual. I know there are exceptions out there but I think the norm is that no matter what the customers ask for, sell them what you want to sell them. The less personalized the service the more the customer will just look for the cheapest price where ever they can get it.
0
0
I think one thing that is overlooked in this discussion is the proximity of a fly shop to anglers. There is not one "true" fly shop around me for over a 200+ mile radius. The majority of my fishing is done within a 60 mile radius. I am not afforded the luxury of being able to drive for over four hours to look at a stick (besides the fact that most shops around here don't carry the brands I favor). ... more Not having that option for face to face contact definitely affects my decision in making a purchase. Instead, I have to rely on the internet for facts (spec sheets) and for feedback from other anglers regarding gear choices. Local fly shops only carry what is appropriate for the waters surrounding them. I've been having a hell of a time finding any decent information regarding switch and other two handed rods around here. Hardly anyone fishes two handed rods in the midwest (the majority in the eastern Great Lakes for salmonids), let alone using one for carp. Info from the NW doesn't do me any good, since the river systems are completely different out there. There's a lot of us without access to fly shops, and I have to believe that the majority of us are relying on internet and catalog based sales to get our gear. There isn't much other alternative. Direct sales from the manufacturer would definitely help bolster their sales, but may be the doom of the smaller middle men. It seems more and more of the small shops are closing and big box stores are taking stock of fly gear, of course they will out compete those fly shops. Give the circumstance, I would much rather buy direct from the manufacturer.
0
0
Singlebarbed lets the world know what he thinks about high-end rod manufacturers (in response to this thread), and it isn't pretty (though it is hilarious and thought-provoking at the same time). Robert: One of the chief complaints from fly shops is that their suppliers are selling gear to big boxes - often at far lower prices than the shops pay. Is the public expected to support stores the industry ... more won't protect? This one gets complicated, for sure.
0
0
Although I've been reading this blog for a while now, this is my first step into the water. I just wanted to say that all of us are not enamored with online purchasing, often for multiple reasons. One of my reasons is that I think the guy or gal with the local fly shop needs our support. (Disclaimer: I neither own nor am employed by a fly shop.) Stuff there costs more. The owner usually can't buy ... more inventory as cheaply as the big box outdoor store. The fly shop owner, along with employees, actually live in my community. In a sense, they are my neighbors. I want them to succeed. Sure, I pay a little more for stuff, but to me that is the price to pay for keeping it local and not having everything come, sight unseen, from some distribution point in the ether or from some other country where human labor is cheap. As for the American rod companies, it seems they have targeted a group of "elite" fly fishers. I think, to a certain extent, they have priced themselves beyond what an average joe can afford. I'll probably buy one of their higher-priced rods someday, but it won't be on the internet.
0
0
Way too much to comment on it all here, but let me share a couple thoughts. Orvis kinda took it in the shorts in the 80s and 90s - their rods weren't keeping up and they had few dealers (at least here in the West), a fact which now seemingly plays to their advantage. Today their rods are technologically advanced, and without a huge dealer network to protect, they can aggressively market all their ... more gear online (and enjoy the full vigorish on everything sell instead of losing a big chunk to distributors/retail markup). In today's connected world, there's a lot to be said for being in control of your own destiny instead of relying on a possibly minimum-wage sociopath at a fly shop to sell your gear for you. I don't believe most brick mortar shops are simply going to disappear, but manufacturers who are relying too heavily on that channel ignore the fact that people now research better than 80% of the purchases online (no matter where they actually buy), and since few manufacturers are participating in the online world, they're largely at the mercy of whatever's being said by whomever's saying it. That's a complete abdication of brand messaging - a bad idea. Also, as far as Wintson goes, I'd like to point out they underwent an expensive Web site remodel (lots of flash animation and a video channel), but no real outreach to customers (no enewsletter, email, blog, RSS, etc). That's indicates a late-1990s view of online marketing, and that decade-length lag in marketing awareness isn't going to help most of fly fishing's manufacturers as time marches on.
0
0
These are all good points, but to be specific I still think the brick and mortar shops are far from obsolete. I don't buy shoes via mail order since I like to try them on first and I also like to cast a fly rod before shucking out big bucks for it. There's also that urge to see the flies, sort through the hackles, and just hang out and kill time in the process. If these type of shops do start to go ... more out of business and surviving shops do a significant amount of business online, we might see surviving manufacturers dabble in direct sales. Does it make a difference to the customer to buy from an online fly shop or direct from the maker? Everyone is different, but it does allow the manufacturer to sell for more than wholesale which is what they get right now. There would surely be a backlash among dealers but Orvis has always done it and Patagonia can also be bought direct. Both are common in fly shops. It can be argued that fly shops were used to increase Orvis' mailing list. Ever notice how the catalog showed up right after you sent your rod or wader warranty in? Only time will tell how all this shakes out, but it will be shaken.
0
0
Interesting letter on the idea of keeping folks employed from the same site (Montana Standard) from a guy in CA. Letter: Fly rod manufacturer should get creative By The Montana Standard Staff - 12/10/2008 R.L. Winston's Woody Woodard, if he truly regrets lay offs, perhaps should think of the community of Twin Bridges when staring at falling markets and production level changes. As CEO of the company, ... more Woodard should sense the personal responsibility to reduce his six-figure income to some bare- necessity level to help cover the expense of the marginal production workers. Secondly, with production set at decreased units, workers can be rotated on and off the job, at minimum pay or even no pay when off, for scheduled days per week to coordinate with the decrease in production. The goal should be to keep all workers on the employment rolls as long as possible with whatever benefits the company offers. Capitalism with its quest for profits does not have to spell "creative destruction," but can be sustainable with justified sacrifice by all and collective reason. David Duncan 830 Spring Drive Mill Valley, Calif Good points! Corvus
0
0
All valid arguments here. My sentiments reflect much of what has already been mentioned: brick and mortar stores fizzle; stores with strong internet sales survive. The typical fly angler usually just doesn't show up streamside unprepared. The only real need for the local fly shop is for flies du jour and a recent stream report. With the internet, finding stream gauge readings and a somewhat reliable ... more hatch report is pretty easy to accomplish. Rod makers need to redefine the actual needs of anglers. Just like the issues the big three automakers are dealing with, we don't all need fancy sports car or SUV model rods. Many anglers are looking for rods with better fuel economy and a lower price tag, typically manufactured in China or Korea. While many of us dream of owning that high end corvette rod, most of us can only afford the camry or accord model. There need to be a better balance of rods on the market.
0
0
Some interesting stuff here. As a marketing guy with several decades experience, I have some pretty strong opinions about the fly fishing industry in general - and how they spend their marketing budgets. Sadly, it's not a progressive industry - with a few exceptions. Orvis, for example - whose brand still brings up visions of stodgy old guys - is one of the few companies intelligently leveraging Internet ... more marketing technologies. While they're doing that, others sink their budgets on low-ROI projects like redesigning their static, passive, just-sit-there-and-look-pretty Web sites. More on the industry coming soon.
0
0
[...] 11, 2008 by DayTripper Looks like the Winston Rod Co. is laying off workers due to these stellar economic conditions we#8217;re currently [...]
0
0
The Big Three (Sage, Winston, Scott) need to go after some of that bail out money they're handing out back east. Either that or figure out what anglers really need in a fly rod rather than offering more and faster models which must cost bunches of money in Ramp;D and marketing. Or sell the companies back to the craftsman/anglers that build the rods.
0
0
The fly fishing industry has been slow to catch up with the rest of the world and this should light a fire under them. Agreed completely on the first premise. As for the second, I believe manufacturers have a shot at revising their model - at heart they still have the opportunity to throw technological advancements at their cost structure; let's hope they are willing to pass some advantages onto the ... more consumer rather than trying to pump up margins. Regarding brick-and-mortar shops, I'd be more apt to lump them in with the newspaper industry before I'd bet money on their chances of survival/turnaround. The competitive advantage in both instances is location, almost exclusively. And unless a fly shop customer is a one-timer looking to satisfy a compulsive urge, or compensate for their poor planning/packing skills before a trip, fly shops offer little in the way of compelling reasons to purchase hard goods from. In other words, good places for picking up a few must-have consumable on the way out and/or getting a "sell-side" fishing report, but not much else.
0
0
An additional thought in line with Ian's comments re: the internet. My guess is that we'll see even more fly shops closing than we've seen in the past. Those that haven't established a strong internet business are likely to have to close. So you'll have less retailers which will shrink the market even further.
0
0
I think it's going to be especially tough on companies that produce only fly rods such as Winston, Scott and Sage. That said, the guys at Angler's Workshop told me that both Lamiglas and Loomis were shutting down production for several weeks when I was there last summer. That surprised me a bit since both companies produce such a wide range of fishing rods. I agree with Ian that these companies will ... more have to come up different strategies to survive in the future. There are a lot of very well made graphite rods out there at lower prices and that competition combined with a depressed economy should force these American companies to take a new approach.
0
0
I think we'll see a shake up on two levels - fly fishing manufacturers and fly shops. We'll likely see a different line up on both fronts and I imagine that the survivors will also do business differently than the old traditional methods. I'm willing to bet that those who go on to succeed will have a dramatically different business model and the internet will be key. The fly fishing industry has been ... more slow to catch up with the rest of the world and this should light a fire under them.
0
0

Discover Your Own Authentic Fly Fishing Experience

With top destinations, guided trips, outfitters and guides, and river reports, you have everything you need.