In what has been a hard year for most of the outdoor gear industry, 2009 fishing industry gear sales fell a painful 10%, and frankly, you have to figure the fly fishing industry’s numbers might be a little worse.
The numbers were reported by the National Sporting Goods Association in an SNEWS article:
Among equipment categories with sales of more than $1 billion in 2009, hunting & firearms showed the greatest percentage increase. Sales of hunting & firearms equipment rose 14% to $5.2 billion from $4.5 billion in 2008.
By only a few million dollars, exercise equipment remained the largest individual equipment category surveyed by NSGA. Sales of exercise equipment decreased 2% to $5.2 billion.
Among other equipment categories with sales of more than $1 billion, only sports optics and camping showed increases. Sports optics rose 4%, to $1.07 billion. Camping equipment sales grew 2%, from $1.46 billion in 2008 to $1.5 billion in 2009.
In other $1 billion-plus sales categories, golf equipment and fishing tackle experienced double-digit declines. Golf equipment sales fell 19% to $2.84 billion. Fishing tackle fell 10% to $1.9 billion.
Were it not for a 14% increase in the firearms industry (growth which seems to be disappearing in 2010), the outdoor industry as a whole would have suffered a bigger drop than the 3% reported.
With new fly fishermen not exactly streaming into the sport, and every fly fishermen already the proud owner of a couple dozen fly rods, guessing at bigger drops in fly fishing’s industry pie isn’t exactly a stretch.
And you have to wonder how the high-end (and high-margin) products like fly rods and reels performed. (Any guesses from the Undergrounders?)
The Good News?
In the past, I’ve criticized the American Fly Fishing Tackle Association (AFFTA) for its lack of transparency and deeply flawed decision-making process.
Yet – in the interest of giving credit where it’s due – the “new” AFFTA seems focused on communicating better (note the news feed on the site, and the AFFTA email newsletter is packed with info).
While I’m less interested than most in seeing hordes of new fly fishermen clogging the rivers, an industry less focused on catfights and more focused on issues of sustainability, legislative issues and youth recruitment can only be a positive.