This, I can predict, will prove interesting (if not downright entertaining).

Fly fishing wader/clothing giant Simms has announced its intention to sell direct to consumers on the Internet, and though Simms honcho KC Walsh and various industry pets are trying to couch this in the most neutral terms possible, it’s clearly a blow to the staggering specialty fly shop.

Naturally, in his Angling Trade interview, Walsh didn’t exactly say that:

I don’t see this as a move to compete with fly shops, rather a way to fill in a void that is not being filled. We’re also investing significant dollars in the website and web support, in a way that ultimately strengthens the brand, and I believe will ultimately benefit our dealers.

Yes, of course. Opening a competitive sales channel always “ultimately” benefits dealers.

Simms Website Banner

Simms sells direct: Inevitable, or Greedy?

I’ve noted several times that the fly fishing industry’s “protected dealer territory” model was not going to enjoy its collision with the Internet.

And as I said before (when Redington announced they were going direct), manufacturers launching direct sales channels can read a spreadsheet as well as anyone.

Direct sales carry their own costs — and it’s hardly slam-dunk-easy to sell stuff online — but direct sales don’t suffer the profit margin slice and dice imposed by sales reps and dealers, so Simms will enjoy the full vigorish on their online sales.

And you know — momma didn’t raise no fools over there in Bozeman.

In truth, you can’t blame manufacturers for recognizing the retail world is titling off its axis, or ignoring all that fat, juicy margin just waiting for them in the promised land of direct sales.

It’s also entirely fair to point out they’re blowing smoke up everyone’s butt when they suggest this is a good thing for specialty dealers.

Ditto the fiction that Simms simply wants fishermen to get the goodies they can’t get at their local dealer (there are plenty of online outlets for that).

And in light of this announcement, does anyone else think it’s a coincidence that Simms just launched one of those traffic-building blog thingees?

Almost unnoticed in all this is the announcement that Simms is going to forbid dealer sales on ebay and Amazon, so dealers caught with last year’s Simms gear can’t dump it — while their customers can get the newest stuff online.

The comments under the post are largely negative, and in fact, several people call out Simms for its miserable reputation when it comes in-season product stocking

Interestingly, Underground Fav Writer Smithhammer manages to paint a larger picture for us:

My concern here is the amount of influence that two large companies, in particular, are having over the entire industry, bending things to their will. Any guesses why IFTD is held in August? Certainly not because it is a time of year that works for the majority of retailers. In addition, I think it shows a great deal of insensitivity (or cluelessness…) to individual shops when, for example, we’re just starting to see wader sales pick up in September, and the following year’s line has already been unveiled at IFTD a month before. And pre-season order dates continue to get pushed farther and farther into the future, to the point where it’s virtually impossible for us to guess what we’re going to need to following year.

All of these things are reasons why IFTD is failing, and why a few major companies in the business are shooting the industry in the foot.

In any case, this could prove to be enormously amusing to those of us who don’t own a fly shop; Simms will try to smile nicely while they’re cutting throats, and at least a few folks will tie themselves into knots trying to make it all seem so civilized.

In a comment to an earlier post, I suggested that Simms was one of two companies that wouldn’t have to compete with dealers, and might actually survive without implementing a direct sales model.

I’ve been largely right about the progression of direct sales outlets in the industry, but I can see I was dead wrong about Simms.

Seeing new direct sales channels appear in a formerly dealer only industry has a feeling of inevitability about it, yet I wonder what the Undergrounders think.

See you watching the catfight unfold from a distance, Tom Chandler