To Buy Discount Or Not?

To Buy Discount Or Not?

Angling Trade

A few months ago, a number of Sage Z-Axis fly rods, as well as Simms G4 waders, mysteriously appeared on the sales racks at 16 Costco locations throughout the country. And, true to form, the super-big-box retailer had drastically slashed prices, knocking hundreds of dollars off the MSRP.

But, alas, it was a short-lived phenomenon. When those companies heard about their products being sold through Costco (apparently, they were sourced to Costco by different agents and accounts), both Simms and Sage snuffed out sales by actually repurchasing their own products, at retail price.

Why so? They were protecting the exclusive proprietary right that specialty fly shops have to sell these products. And while that might seem like a bummer to the fly-fishing consumer looking to save a few bucks, it might not be… at least not if they value their local fly shop and want to see it remain in business.

The relationship between manufacturers and their dealers is tenuous. Manufacturers (but not all of them) are selling through outlets, even direct to the consumer via the Internet, like never before. In response, some shops have cut the manufacturer out of the mix. If you notice that your favorite fly shop starts selling its own “house label” brand of waders, reels, rods and accessories, odds are they’ve joined a consortium of shops from throughout the country that is manufacturing in Asia under a collective agreement, and simply private-labeling gear for each member in the collective.

Some companies, like Simms and Sage, are still looking out for the fly dealer and selling mostly through fly shops. The rationale is simple: While it might seem that the profit margins are better via direct sales, the real issue is “cultivation” of the consumer. And the fly shop plays a critical role in creating the value understanding (and the will to buy) at a level where an angler might spend more than a few hundred dollars for a pair of waders, or $700 or more for a fly rod.

The bottom line is that you, the consumer, will ultimately referee a retail wrestling match that seems to be turning uglier by the minute. Have you had enough of high product prices? Enough that you’re willing and able to buy your gear via shopping on the Internet? Or do you value the personal attention and coaching you get when visiting the classic fly shop where you can hold product and get spot-on advice about local waters and other angling subjects? Do you like to pick up, shake and actually cast a fly rod before you buy it?

If you’re like most anglers, you probably like it both ways. Convenience and discounts, with service and insights. The thing is, nobody is sure that the “have your cake and eat it too” scenario is going to last much longer.

Kirk Deeter is the editor of Angling Trade, which covers the business of fly-fishing. Go to