You may have heard that Simms is planning to sell direct via its website starting this summer. Not to say I told you so, but, well, see #2 here… I fully expect more dominoes to fall this year.
While the move has stirred some ire among some of the fly shop people I know, a number of others seem to be willing to accept that as an inevitability. The strong brands, like Orvis, Patagonia, etc., have had a direct-sales strategy for years. And looking at the glass half full, a dealer can see how a healthier brand can be mutually beneficial. Speaking from personal experience, if I’m looking for a certain size and color shirt that my fly shop may or may not have in stock, I like knowing I can find it, and have it sent to me within a week. But that’s not going to stop me from visiting my fly shop. Not at all.
I think a lot of anglers will continue to visit shops, if only because they like to wave those rods around, and try those boots on, before they make a purchase.
The real sticky wicket, however, comes when the angler visits the shop to find out exactly what he or she wants, then leaves with a promise to come back in a few days to make the purchase. But everyone knows where he or she is really going–straight to the computer at home to find a discount online.
For the record, Simms has pledged not only to sell direct at full MSRP with tax (so you’re not going to get a screaming deal buying direct), that company, as well as others, has pledged to clamp down on allowing retailers to sell discounted inventory through outlets like eBay and Amazon. But I wonder if that genie is already out of the bottle. Moreover, I wonder if you–the consumers–value a relationship with a fly shop enough to spend a few extra bucks, or if you know what you want, and as such, are only looking to spend as little as possible.
Some companies, like Hatch Outdoors, Hardy, and Scott Fly Rods, have sworn off the Internet discounters. If you want this Hatch reel, you’ll have to buy it through a specialty fly shop (or its respective website).
Do you care?