For those who sweated it out at the EFFTEX show in Prague and wondered why I was wearing shorts and a summer fishing shirt on the first day of the show; well, it’s because I analysed the information available in the EFTTA Newsline last march and could remember EFTTEX in Geneva.
I can understand the decision of the EFTTA Board, the choice of the venue was based on geographical location. It is just unfortunate that air-conditioning was not available. I have always maintained anyway that exhibitors should wear outdoor clothing at Tackle Trade shows; we trade after all, in an outdoor sport and our final customers do not carry out their favourite pastime wearing a pin-striped suit.
There were more of these on the show than usual; I suppose this has to do with the recent concentrations and take-overs that have happened at a staggering rate in the last few months.
I do express my doubts about the success of these concentrations. Multi-brand management inside a same group has just not seemed to work in the past, at least in Europe. I can understand this strategy when approaching the US market but there are no Wall Marts and no Bass Pro Shops of significant equivalence in Europe or in the rest of the World for that matter.
The main difficulty seems to be related to maintaining the individuality of each brand through specific and successful product development.
Maintaining top level multiple brand managers and individual sales forces for each brand doesn’t add up with group streamlining and the control of operational costs. This is particularly applicable to groups that are run by accountants and business administrators and not by Fishing Tackle marketing specialists.
There is also a limit to the amount of tackle a traditional dealer is ready to order from an individual supplier. This factor is related to a phenomenon known in France as “the envelope“. Each dealer already has in his mind, the amount of business he is ready to give to each tackle supplier. This is influenced by cash flow, personal reasons, and the attention he is capable of giving to a single salesman.
I am more of a believer of single brand market domination. It does not surprise me that the two most famous worldwide brands in rods and reels are Japanese and belong to International groups that bear that unique brand name as their company name. These companies permanently benefit from brand synergy and can sell deeper in their range through a global approach in product positioning. They can also combine the marketing throughout their distribution channels, further saving costs and energy.
Further news at EFTTEX included the interesting press release from Rapala VMC Corporation and Shimano, with Shimano subscribing a 33,4 % share in Rapala’s Hungarian distribution company: Rapala Eurohold Ltd. Are we seeing another wedding in the making? I will keep you informed of any further developments.
Major changes are also announced in that leading group’s French operations with strong rumours of major concentration and restructuring between Ragot, WaterQueen and VMC.
The show was its usual self, the intense heat inside the buildings causing many impromptu meetings on the outside, between halls. I noticed a larger presence of Chinese exhibitors than usual. Does this mean the EFTTA board has loosened the strict policies of the past in prevision of the upcoming competing TTW show?
The Lure Testing Tank was also a great idea but it certainly deserves a better placement in the show.
I was delighted to have the chance to speak for a while with Rex Hunt who was lending his support to the launch of his new product range in Europe.
Rex is definitely one of the great figures of fishing worldwide. He showed himself very supportive of my efforts for a drastic strengthening of the political representation of our sport and couldn’t understand why the rest of the trade seemed so unconcerned. He himself has been responsible for major lobbying in Australia: Rex is a dedicated conservationist and part of a group of anglers that was instrumental in removing 87 Scallop dredge boats from Port Phillip Bay in 1997. Fishing in the Bay since then has improved dramatically. He also founded the Rex Hunt Futurefish foundation in 1999 and sits on the Board.
To quote Rex: “The Foundation uses its talents and resources to protect and enhance fish habitats that are accessible for recreational fishing, and assists disadvantaged persons and children to actively participate in recreational fishing”.
“My concern is that people who don’t know the practical side of what fishing and the environment is about are making decisions.”
Rex is a tireless worker for the betterment of fishing. He also enthusiastically promotes the family values that fishing offers, especially for kids. Rex single-handedly changed the public views on releasing fish with his “Fish Kissing” and promotion of “Fish for the future“. I hope we shall have more occasions of seeing him again in future European shows.
I was very disappointed by the general apathy of the General Assembly to the debate on the need to substantially reinforce the European lobbying budget. Only half a handful of members actually spoke out. I am afraid the rest of the trade is just living in denial of the imminent collapse of our European trade from the decline in fish stocks and the fishing environment.
While attempting to analyse the reasons for such lack of interest in the preservation of our business environment it has come to me that one of the main reasons must be: Lack of real understanding of fishing by the principal actors in the trade. Most leading companies in our business were originally started-up by passionate fishermen who used their knowledge and their creativity for the development of useful tools that they often started manufacturing in their backyard and that became best sellers. These pioneers had a complete understanding of the business they were dealing in as they had lived and continued to live their passion everyday of their life. As passionate fishermen, they could develop the true useful product and were more concerned with “fishability” than profitability. Most leading companies are now in their second or third generation of deciders, either through transmission or take-overs and many of the top managers have never experienced the intensity and the fulfilment of a good day’s fishing. They are therefore incapable of assessing the decline that has happened to the fishing environment in the last thirty years as they do not regularly take part in the sport themselves. Beware! Clear scientific evidence and data together with feedback from the terrain clearly show that our business environment is on the verge of collapse! Only the Tackle Trade, as it generates income from the recreational fishing activity can find the funding for the defence of our sport.
I was quite agreeably surprised to see the members showing full support for the EFTTEX show and rejecting any possible negotiations with the DHP group that will organize the Tackle Trade world show in 2008. Were those present at the meeting not included in the present list of announced exhibitors of this new show? Or is just another case of denial? I still remain convinced that the occurrence of two major shows in Europe will just weaken our trade and EFTTA in the long run. I also wonder why the next EFTTEX is being held in Italy; what guarantees do we have that EFTTEX will recuperate the VAT? Do I need to remind the Board that EFTTEX lost 80,000 Euros in expected earnings in Milan in 2002, when the Italian government failed to reimburse us the VAT?
I remain positive as I noticed a lot of goodwill from the new Chairman: Mr. Gregg Holloway and some excellent presentations by both Mrssrs. Lars Svensen and Anders Thomassen about plans to revive the struggling line testing program and a presentation on the current activities of EFTTA. The incumbent new President should however be ready to allow members to raise questions at the end of Annual General Meetings: Cancelling A.O.C.B (any other competent business) means cancelling the raising of any issues that were not covered in the main agenda, thus prohibiting members from posing any question for discussion or consideration during the meeting. A less defensive approach to Annual General Meetings would ensure more positive and constructive feedback by members. After all, EFTTA is an association that belongs to its members.