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Fishing | Survey | Tackle trade
September 2015

How well prepared did your

customers Go Fishing?

Import figures indicate that there had been a drop in demand for fishing tackle over the past few years. Sports Trader did a survey to ask members of the fishing industry for their views on trading conditions. Photos: NICOL DU TOIT

It may be true that when times get tough, the tough go fishing. But, they don’t necessarily go fishing with a new rod or reel.

Although South African retail sales figures for fishing tackle are unfortunately not available, the steep drop in the number of fishing-related products imported over the last year or two, seems to indicate that anglers have not been buying as many rods and reels as before: figures from the Department of Trade and Industry indicate that after a record volume of imports in 2012, the number of goods imported had dropped to a 10-year low in 2014.

The volume of rod imports has been declining since 2012, and in 2014 it was 14% lower than in 2013. The volume of hook imports were 32% lower in 2014 than in 2013, but the number of reels imported grew 18% in 2014.

Yet, despite the drop in imported goods, most (55%) of the respondents in the Sports Trader survey of the local fishing tackle industry* say that trading conditions have been satisfactory over the past three years. Retailers were more satisfied, with 62% describing trading as “satisfactory”, compared to 50% satisfied suppliers. But, a quarter of the suppliers responded that trading over the past three years had been “excellent”, indicating that although fishing tackle imports were down, they were very happy with the sell-in to retail.

Retail respondents, however, were less happy with their sales to consumers: 23% said that trading over the past three years had been very tough and only 15% described trading over the past three years as excellent. The high prices of new tackle products, due to the unfavourable exchange rate, is a common complaint from retailers who responded to the survey.

“The ever-changing exchange rate makes replacement cost high, while the disposable income of consumers have decreased,” commented Ziyaad Mahomed Moosa from Lucky’s Discount.

To add insult, the weather has also been unkind to the industry. “In my opinion the fishing industry, and all outdoor activities in general, are all strongly governed by our weather conditions,” commented Unwar Meer of Dreamcast Angling. “Presently, the drought we are experiencing has taken its toll of the retail sports industry.”

The economy impacted more on customers in certain areas than others. “We have noticed that in the mining provinces, business has taken a steep decline due to closure of mines,” commented a supplier. Other suppliers complain of higher turnovers being negated by higher costs.

The effect of the exchange rate is best illustrated by the fact that fewer fishing tackle products were imported in 2014 than in the previous ten years, yet, the Rand value of imports was the second highest in ten years (see charts below). Last year, the average price per imported fishing tackle item was R28, considerably higher than the preceding years, when it was R20 (2013), R17 (2012), R19 (2011) and R15 (2010).

Interestingly, this trend had been reversed in reels: last year reel import volumes had grown 18%, but the Rand value was 11% down on the previous year, indicating that the imported reels were cheaper than the previous year, despite the exchange rate.

The low margins in fishing tackle (10-25%) further affected retail profits, another respondent commented.

Fishing tackle exports have also been growing in volume and Rand value over the past ten years — especially since 2009 when there was a sudden spike in exports to African countries and the bulk of fishing tackle exports had been to Africa, namely: 81% in 2009, 89% in 2010, 84% in 2011, 79% in 2012, 75% in 2013 and 86% in 2014.

Fishing | Survey | Tackle trade

Current trading

The survey respondents were more divided about the current trading conditions: a little more than a third (36%) of all respondents say that current trading is much the same as last year, with more retailers (46%) selecting this option than suppliers (30%).

This view, that current trading conditions is not much different to last year, is supported by the volume of tackle imports recorded for the first six months of the year: in the first half of 2015 there was only a negligible increase in tackle imports over the same period in 2014, which was the lowest since 2010 (see below).

These figures indicate that the tough times will be with us for a while.

As one would expect in tough economic times, replaceable items like hooks, lures, line etc. are by far the most popular items among retail customers, with 69% retailers indicating that these constitute most of their sales. Only 23% said that most of their sales income came from in rods and reels, even though these are higher margin items. On the other hand, hooks, lures and lines not only have to be replaced often, but they are quite affordable for the angler who wants to treat himself to something new.

Marketing of products

Company reps and sales agents are still the mainstay of the industry, with 67% of the respondents saying that they either place most orders with reps/agents (69% of retailers), or mainly use reps/agents to introduce their products to the market (70% of suppliers).

This is followed by the SAFTAD (SA Fishing Tackle Agents and Distributors) industry trade show as a means of introducing new products, as indicated by nearly half of the respondents (48%). More than two-thirds of the respondents (67%) have attended the SAFTAD trade show in Johannesburg during the past three years — either as a retail visitor (85%) or exhibitor (60%).

Although so many of the retail respondents visited the SAFTAD show, less than a third of retailers (31%) indicate that they place their orders through trade shows. This would imply that while the SAFTAD show is popular, retailers do not primarily visit the show to place orders.

Pre-show roadshows

Response from John Pledger

We submitted this article to SAFTAD chairman John Pledger for comment before publication and received the response below: I believe that there are some valid points (in the article), but I have been unable to ascertain, other than the one dealer that you mentioned, from whom you have gathered the information. All the distributors that I have spoken to have advised that you hadn't made contact with them regarding the survey.

As far as the attendances at the show are concerned, collectively between Durban and Johannesburg we had 246 dealers that attended shows. The show attendance in Johannesburg was 8 dealers down on last year. Generally speaking, most of the exhibitors were happier with the type of dealer they received this year as they were busier generally than they were last year. We believe that this is a fair reflection on the industry, taking into account the general economic conditions in South Africa.

I have been in the industry for over 50 years and during all that time in recessionary periods, you find that the terminal tackle sales increase and that the larger items like rods and reels, generally speaking, decrease. This I believe is a world tendency as well.

The comments about the exchange rates are valid and it is becoming almost impossible with the weak rand to hold prices on imported goods to within inflation rates. We are arriving at this scenario where importers that have recently received stock are out on price, compared to the ones that have older stock. With the fluctuating rand this trend will continue for some time.

The current trading in rand terms certainly is very much the same as last year, if not slightly higher, but when converted to unit sales you will find that there is definitely a downturn.

What you have failed to mention is that SAFTAD via SACRAA have already spent R184 000 on the opposition to the gill-netting in Vanderkloof dam, as this is one of the prime breeding areas of the largemouth Yellowfish. We have also undertaken a large EIA of the recreational fishing market in South Africa. This is currently being undertaken by Rhodes University Department of Ichthyology, and the findings should be available towards the end of 2016. This will solve the problem that you mention in your article of statistics on the industry not being available. This is another initiative of SAFTAD/SACRAA.

The implication of SAFTAD being the bad boys in your article, therefore, are not really true, as we do worry about the industry, we do worry about long-term sustainable angling and we do worry about the condition of our oceans and inland waters. Perhaps a few positive comments as against all the negativity would be appreciated.

As you have experienced in the past, I am always available for comment on most issues, but in this instance your lack of interest in the SAFTAD shows and what is happening within the recreational distribution industry, and the total lack of contact with me, have been distinctly noticeable.

The main purpose of shows is to display and advise the trade of all the new items and to reaffirm, to those who have forgotten, some of the other established items. It is also to have contact with the dealers to discuss problems and promotions. In a lot of instances dealers make notes of all the items in which they are interested and only place orders once they have returned to their businesses. This has certainly been the case for a long as I can remember, and it was a principal that I personally adopted many years ago, when I used to visit all the international shows when I was buying for Tatlow and Pledger at the time.

Unfortunately, you cannot satisfy all the people all the time. SAFTAD once again gave all the exhibitors a questionnaire on how they found the show and all these questionnaires are studied at the first meeting after the show, which this year is scheduled in September, to analyse and if possible to implement suggestions to improve the show. This has been the procedure for many years.

(The article was compiled from responses to an online survey. We included comments supplied by respondents — where several respondents commented on the same topic, comments were used that reflected the views of all — editor.)

When counting only the number of distributors (92) that supply fishing-related products to Southern African retailers, it would appear that the industry is dominated by small businesses who supply fewer than five fishing brands, namely 63 (68.5%) of all suppliers. But, that would not be a true reflection of the fishing market: this large number of small distributors only supply 27% of the brands — in many cases one local brand developed by the supplier.

On the other hand, more than half (54%) of the more than 500 fishing-related brands are distributed by a minority, namely 13 (14%) of the distributors. And they include most of the sought-after brands. The six biggest distributors supply 36% of the fishing brands to local retailers. Because of the wide number of product categories they supply and the prominence of the brands they import, these companies dominate the market.

They are therefore the drawcard for retail visitors travelling to a trade show, and one can expect that the retailers would order a fair percentage of their stock from them.

When these companies invite retailers to place their orders before the trade show, one could expect other, smaller distributors, to become angry. This practice has indeed elicited some strong responses from distributors who responded to our survey — even though we didn’t ask any specific questions about the pre-show roadshows or elicited comments.

“The big distributors are ruining the trade shows by flying the top customers up to their showrooms before the shows to secure pre-show deals and have them spend their budgets before the show,” one distributor voiced a comment made by several others.

“A lot of these big dealers are not coming up for the show any more, as they’ve been flown up to Johannesburg three or four times before the show. This is destroying the trade shows and future of shows. The companies that are guilty of doing this are all on the board of SAFTAD — I don’t know why we bother — they don’t give a x@&t about the industry,” said another.

“I think approaching tackle traders before a show like SAFTAD actually decreases the attendance numbers at the show, and this has a negative impact on other distributors,” agrees Brent Webber of Blue Water Gear. This is one of the reasons why he no longer exhibits at SAFTAD, adds Gerry Venter of Wondermix, as “the larger retailers get pre-shows from the larger suppliers, therefore negating my presence at the trade show.”

After peaking with 250 retail stores attending in 2012, the number of retailers sending representatives to the Johannesburg SAFTAD show dropped to 171 stores in 2013 and 187 in 2014 sending representatives to the show.

“We see our customers monthly and show them our new products,” says John Geils of Xplorer Flyfishing. “The only reason we attend the show is to show face and keep relationships with the dwindling number of dealers that still attend. The show is certainly not growing, regardless of what SAFTAD reports.”

One or many shows

As can be expected the Johannesburg SAFTAD show was again the biggest trade show attraction for respondents this year, with 58% indicating before the show that they would either exhibit (55% of suppliers) or visit (69% of retail respondents). At the time of going to press, the final visitor numbers for this year’s SAFTAD show in Johannesburg were not yet available.

In the past the smaller, informal, satellite shows had been organised by about ten or so exhibitors in Cape Town (attended by 21% respondents), Durban (attended by 12%), and the Eastern Cape and Knysna (18%). These mini-shows have been held in low-cost venues and exhibitors all invited their own customers from the area who didn’t want to travel to the main show in Johannesburg.

Last year a media company, however, organised a more formal show in Durban, with wider invitations and publicity to attract visitors and exhibitors. The success of the show prompted SAFTAD to investigate the possibility of organising regional shows and the first one was held in Durban in the beginning of August this year.

The possibility of hosting a SAFTAD show in Cape Town in 2016 is being investigated.

This opened a debate in the tackle industry: is the tackle trade best served by one, big, show in Johannesburg where most distributors exhibit and a large number of retailers visit … or should the shows be taken to other regions closer to the retailers?

Most of the respondents (36%) believe that the industry will be best served by one major show in Johannesburg, followed by respondents who want shows in all the major cities (30%), with less than 10% wanting trade shows in all regions, including the Eastern Cape and Free State.

Several retailers commented that shows closer to home would benefit them. “Many retailers cannot attend the Johannesburg show as it is too far,” says Moosa. “The three shows in the majors cities make it easier as the shows comes to you, and the retailer does not have to travel away from his business.”

Distributors are more keen on one show only, as 40% of the supplier respondents indicated that this option will be best for the industry. Most who commented mentioned that the travel and exhibition cost of multiple shows will be too much for smaller exhibitors.

“If a trade show is held in every city it will not benefit smaller exhibitors as they will not travel to the other shows. It will also prevent them from seeing retailers that will not be traveling to the Johannesburg show anymore. Hosting a trade show in every city will do more harm than good to both retailers and suppliers,” says Arno Laubscher of Scientific Fly.

“One central show, where exhibitors and retailers all come under one roof maximises the potential for most, if not all exhibitors, to attend,” is the choice of Jeri Drake of Excalibur Tackle. “Multiple shows will not see the attendance of many of the smaller exhibitors because it will be too expensive and will dilute the visitor numbers and exposure of products.”

An anonymous respondent said: “I don’t feel our market is big enough to have a trade show in every province. I feel that all distributors should showcase (their products) each year in one province, under one roof, as this has far more impact.”

Interestingly, a relatively high number of respondents (21%) attended international trade shows — a quarter of the suppliers and 15% of retailers. But, nearly a third of the respondents (30%) say they are not interested in attending trade shows at all: 35% suppliers and 23% retailers.

Fishing | Survey | Tackle trade

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