US fly trade on the up despite appearances

The American fly tackle trade showed a five per cent rise in product sales for the 12 months to August 2023, although key areas like soft goods and waders were the main drivers.

A state of the industry report at the recent Confluence event organised by the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) detailed how the some sectors – notably in areas like apparel, footwear, luggage and reels – had forged ahead, others were still down year on year.

The insights were provided by AFFTA’s research and data analyst partner TrackFly, with initial information unveiled during the Confluence’s State of the Industry Breakfast.

According to TrackFly – which analysed data from a string of speciality fly fishing retail outlets – the five per cent increase in top-line product sales for the last 12 months ending in August 2023 was not consistent across the board.

As might be expected, the top revenue-driving categories of rods, reels, soft goods and waders all contributed to the steady growth of overall product sales.

Although rod sales have remained flat, reels showed a growth of six per cent. But the big winners were the wading products category, including waders and wading boots, which was up 15 per cent while soft goods showed an impressive 36 per cent growth with luggage and cases up 35 per cent.

However, accessories, tools, watercraft, rod and reel combos and eyewear all showed marked declines, with tools faring worst, down 20 per cent year on year.

Top brands across the sector included Simms, Patagonia, Sage, RIO, Scientific Anglers, Fishpond, Orvis and Costa del Mar.

One interesting insight revealed that the economic events between 2020 and 2022 created a surge of interest in outdoor activities, resulting in consumer demand never before seen by many retailers in the sector.

Bu, while May 2021 experienced a strong start to the season, instead of steady growth in product sales as would be predicted, there was a sudden drop followed by an even bigger surge in sales during the month of July.

TrackFly attributed this anomaly to the supply chain constraints that many brands and retailers experienced that year while trying to keep up with an unexpected increase in product demand.

TrackFly CEO Stephen Baird said: “Analysis of the core sales channel for fly fishing provides solid evidence of a healthy industry, despite the chaotic consumer demand and supply chain anomalies of 2021.

“Fly fishers are spending discretionary dollars with specialty retailers to show slightly stronger year-over-year growth than in other outdoor segments, and TrackFly is building the data assets to further study those trends. Some evidence also suggests that new consumers have been contributing to some of the channel’s sales growth, particularly since Covid.

“Our conclusion [is that] the core channel of our industry is healthy and strong, and we now have data and analytical tools that can help us all make more informed decisions going forward, to better serve our customer base, and to be more competitive and profitable as businesses.”

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