There is little doubt that the relevance of our annual industry show (presently IFTD), particularly in the eyes of the retailer, has been waning over the past few years. Historically the show was about “new product”, and this fact made it hard for a retailer not to attend, as the show was the place to see new product offerings for the coming year. Product cycles have diminished this fact, as shops are now seeing new product weeks, if not months ahead of the show. With this compelling reason now gone, there are many retailers and manufacturers alike that chose not to attend because of the inherent “lack of value” that the IFTD show now offers.
I have been a part of the Fly Fishing Industry my entire adult life. I have worked as a fly fishing guide, in addition to selling product and working the register in a fly shop. Most recently I have owned and operated my own fly shop for the past 7 years. The show for me, whether we are talking about FFR or IFTD, has always been a relevant and important annual event for my business and myself as an industry professional. But the value and relevance I have gained from this gathering has little to do with what the show offered me, but more about what I was able to get out of the show. I have never attended the show with a wait and see attitude, but instead go with a plan of what I want to accomplish and how I plan on doing so.
When planning my attendance to any show (IFTD, OR, ICAST), these are the key points that I always consider when making my show plan:
Networking: this fact is what has kept me coming back to the show year after year. A majority of relationships I have with various people within the Fly Fishing Industry have stemmed from the show. Whether walking the show floor, attending the various industry events, or mingling in the hotel lobby and bar, there are always great opportunities to meet new people and catch up with old friends. Let’s also remember that Networking goes beyond just meeting new friends. Being able to meet owners, sales managers and customers service staff face-to-face can drastically improve the relationship a shop has with it’s vendors in the long term.
Show Specials: it is hard to make attending any show a profitable affair without taking advantage of the show specials offered by manufacturers. Whether extended dating, increased margins, or free product, there are many vendors that want to award retailers for coming to the show, and we’re all crazy not to take advantage of them. The key here is to track what you are saving, be smart about how you apply these specials to your bottom line, and to make sure that what the manufacturer is offering is in fact beneficial to your business. This is also something that can be planned out ahead of the show by contacting your key vendors and seeing how they might award you for coming to the show and making it worth their while. Let’s all remember that it’s not just the retailer that is trying to find value in attending the show, as the exhibiting manufacturers, lodges and guides all have to justify their costs of attending (which I might add is normally much higher than the retailers cost).
Seminars: for the past 2 years I have participated in the business seminar that takes place the day before the show. Each of these events has been crucial in my business’s success, as I’ve learned new strategies and established what practices will and will not work for my shop. Additionally, I have been able to get different manufacturers to help pay for me to attend these seminars, further decreasing my overall cost of attending while increasing the value of each show.
Being a Part of the Solution, not the Problem: there is little doubt that our industries show, and industry trade organization is going through hard times. As such, I am a firm believer that we (the retailer, guide, outfitter, manufacturer) are all needed more now than ever. This is the time for us all to come together as an industry, put our personal feelings and issues aside, and work together to find a solution to the problem(s) facing each and every one of our businesses. No single entity is going to do this alone, this is a group problem, and we need to find a group solution. So for 2012, come to IFTD to help your industry find it’s way through this ever-evolving business environment.
In the end it is up to the individual to decide how a show can and will benefit them and their business. As a current member of AFFTA and their Board of Directors, I hope to see many new faces at this years IFTD show in Reno. If there are any questions I can answer, or advice I can offer, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (303) 872-0097.
Image courtesy American Fly Fishing Trade Association