How to start up a fishing tackle retailer

Fishing tackle retailers typically sell a wide range of angling products including tackle, bait, clothing, books, DVDs and fishing kayaks. Our practical guide will help you start up and run your own fishing tackle shop.

Research your target market

Estimating demand

It's important to make sure that there is enough demand in your area for your proposed fishing tackle shop. Be aware that the sector is quite competitive. Fishing tackle and related services are available from many different sources such as:

  • specialist online retailers - these may have retail outlets as well
  • department stores that sell basic tackle
  • catalogue shops such as Argos
  • sports shops
  • country goods and outdoor equipment shops
  • beach shops
  • other fishing tackle dealers
  • mail order via magazines such as Angler's Mail
  • consumer fishing tackle shows like The Big One

Check out the competition in your area to identify how many other outlets are already selling fishing tackle locally.

Have a good look at existing retailers of fishing tackle to establish:

  • what they sell and the prices they charge
  • which services they offer
  • how knowledgeable and helpful their staff are
  • what their opening hours are
  • whether their premises and fittings are modern and smart

Identifying these aspects of your competitors' businesses will help you to tailor your shop to target any gaps in the market.

Why will customers choose your shop

You'll want to make sure that enough customers will choose your shop rather than existing outlets. Your market research might indicate that there is a gap in the market that your shop can fill. For example, perhaps no one in your area offers custom built rods or repairs.

Some of the reasons why customers will chose your shop over competitors include:

  • your location. Your premises may be close to a stretch of water or coastal fishing area which will attract fishing enthusiasts - or it might be located in a busy shopping centre with lots of passing trade
  • your product ranges
  • your prices
  • the level of service you offer. You could consider offering services such as tackle hire, custom built rods and repairs. You may also offer 'added value' services like boat or kayak hire
  • your staff. The staff you employ may be keen fishermen themselves and be able to offer customers advice on equipment, technique and fishing in your local area. You may even decide to run a coaching and guiding service if you or your staff have the necessary qualifications

Check out future developments

The location of your outlet is very important. Ideally there will be ample and easy parking nearby and lots of passing trade. Check that there are no plans to build new road systems, which would mean that traffic would bypass your shop, nor proposals to impose parking restrictions nearby.

Also consider whether there are any local initiatives planned to boost angling participation - for example improving access to small rivers and feeder streams. These can all help to increase the amount of angling tourism in your area - and demand for your business.

Find out what people want

Small independent fishing tackle retailers face tough competition from mail order and online suppliers and other tackle shops. It's very important to find out what people want and whether there are particular goods or services you can offer which will attract customers to your shop.

Don't forget that market research can be ongoing. Once your tackle shop is open, talk to your customers. Find out what are their likes and dislikes and if there is anything they would like you to sell that you don't currently stock.

Selling on eBay and Amazon

Selling online can be an excellent way of reaching new customers and boosting your sales. But setting up your own ecommerce website can be expensive and you may not be sure at the beginning whether the value of the sales you'll make online will justify the set-up costs.

As an alternative, trading on eBay or Amazon lets you get a feel for selling online but with much lower start up costs. And you may decide to keep on selling through eBay and Amazon even when you have your own online shop.

Getting started

You might already have your own personal eBay account that you use to buy items for yourself and to sell things that you don't need any more. But if you're trading as a business on eBay you're legally obliged to make it clear in your listings that you're a business seller. This means that you'll either need to register a new business account or upgrade your personal account to a business one. There's guidance in the eBay Seller Centre on the definition of 'trading' if you're not sure whether you need to register as a business seller.

Similarly, with Amazon you can use an existing account or create a new one when you register as a business seller.

If you're not already running a business and you intend to start selling things on eBay or Amazon - perhaps just in a small way to begin with - then you'll need to notify HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) that you're trading. There's guidance on the Gov.uk website that gives an overview of what counts as trading and what counts as self employment. It also gives details of your tax and record keeping obligations.

Decide whether to have your own virtual 'shop'

Having your own virtual storefront will give your business a valuable online presence and will allow you to display all your products together in one place.

When you sign up to sell on eBay, you have the option of setting up an eBay Shop. This allows you to create your shop using an existing template or to customise it to your own design. You don't have to choose the eBay Shop option straight away - you may decide it's best to wait until your monthly sales build up to a certain level and then upgrade.

With Amazon, you'll automatically create your own storefront regardless of the package you choose. You won't be able to customise it very much but you will be able to add your name and logo and provide some information about your business.

How much does selling on Amazon and eBay cost?

Before you start selling on Amazon and eBay it's a good idea to find out how much you'll have to pay in fees. Depending on the items you sell and the method you choose for selling them, your total fees can be quite substantial. And while some of the fees you pay will be linked to the number of items you sell each month, others are likely to be fixed costs which you incur even if you don't sell anything.

Both eBay and Amazon give you the option of selling as a business seller without paying any fixed monthly fees, although it's usually more cost-effective to choose a subscription-based package unless you're only selling a small number of items each month.

The eBay website has a fee illustrator tool and a fee calculator that will help you compare the fees for different selling methods and get a good idea of how much your actual per-item selling fees are likely to be.

The Amazon website gives detailed fee guidance, including some examples of pricing for their subscription and non-subscription packages.

Managing your listings

Uploading your inventory to eBay or Amazon and managing your listings can be a time consuming task, particularly if you're planning to sell a large number of items.

Both eBay and Amazon offer useful listing tools, some of which are free and others that you'll have to pay for.

Promoting your items

Because there's such a huge number of items for sale on eBay and Amazon at any one time, it's very important that you do everything you can to stand out from the crowd.

Always make sure that your listings include accurate, spell-checked descriptions and that your photos and other images show the items that you're selling in the best possible light.

You might want to take it a step further and use the various marketing tools provided by eBay and Amazon such as search optimisation, cross-promotions and paid-for advertisements.

Your reputation

As an eBay or Amazon seller your online reputation is extremely important. All sellers have a feedback score based on actual customer feedback and this is the main measure that future customers will use to check that you are trustworthy and reliable.

So you'll want to keep your rating as high as possible by providing an excellent level of customer service and fast delivery at reasonable prices. Make sure you always respond promptly to customer queries, deal with returns efficiently and keep an eye on your stock levels to avoid your listings showing an item as being in stock when it has sold out.

Be aware that packing up orders and sending them out can be time consuming, but it's important to stay on top of the job to make sure that the right items get delivered in good time to the right people. Very many parcel delivery services now offer bulk shipping tools that integrate with your eBay or Amazon account and these can greatly simplify the process of arranging and tracking your deliveries.

If you're selling on Amazon you might also consider using the Fulfilment by Amazon service, where you send Amazon your inventory and they do all of the picking, packing and shipping as well as providing customer service.

More information

The eBay and Amazon websites have a great deal of useful guidance to help you get started as a business seller and to expand your business as demand for your products grows. Both also have lively seller community forums where experienced sellers are often happy to answer questions.

Research current trends, plus legal and tax issues

Decide what to sell

The range of products you might stock is very large and will depend on the size of your outlet and whether you'll stock tackle for all types of fishing or focus on a particular type such as fly, coarse, or sea. But you'll probably sell some or all of the following:

  • fishing rods, such as fly, coarse, sea and specialist rods
  • reels, including fixed spool, centre pin, multiplying and fly reels
  • hooks of different weights and sizes
  • line and braid
  • floats, such as wagglers, stick and pole floats
  • weights
  • fishing poles
  • keep nets
  • landing nets
  • bait, such as maggots, casters and boilies
  • lures
  • ready-made flies
  • fly tying equipment, including vices, dryers, feathers, whip finishers and so on
  • clothing and accessories, such as waders, tackle boxes, stools, knives, magazines, DVDs and so on
  • fishing 'bivvys' and shelters
  • gift vouchers

It is worth keeping an eye on the results of surveys published in angling magazines as these may show trends that will help you decide what to stock and in what quantity. For example, a survey carried out by the Angling Trade Association in 2015 showed that the most popular tackle lines, in order, were tackle for:

  • carp
  • coarse fishing.
  • game fishing

Most of the products you sell will be new, but you may decide to sell some second-hand items such as ex-hire equipment and perhaps things you've taken in part exchange. You might also sell related items like kayaks (rigid and inflatable) and electric 'trolling' motors.

Services to offer

As well as stocking a wide range of fishing equipment you might also offer your customers various services, for example:

  • hire of tackle and equipment
  • rod repairs. You might offer this yourself or pass the work on to a specialist in return for commission
  • custom built rods
  • coaching and guiding. If you offer this service you'll need the relevant qualifications and certificates (see the Angling Trust website for details)
  • subscriptions to the Angling Trust - you'll get commission for every adult member you sign up

Seasonality

The fishing tackle trade is not as seasonal as it once was but you may find that the close season on coarse fishing and brown trout could have an effect on demand, so you may want to adjust your stock accordingly.

The coarse fish close season runs from 15th March to 15th June inclusive and applies to all rivers, streams and drains in England and Wales, but does not apply to most stillwaters. The coarse fish close season doesn't apply to most canals in England and Wales. The brown trout close season applies to all waters in England and Wales, although dates vary according to local byelaws. Coarse fishing in Scotland and Northern Ireland is permitted all year round. In Scotland, the salmon fishing season varies according to different river systems, but falls between the period from mid January to the end of November. In Northern Ireland the season runs from March until October, although there are some regional variations. Some fishery owners and angling clubs apply their own close seasons. You can find out more about fishing season opening and closing dates on the Gov.uk and Spinfish websites.

Fishing accessories make very popular gifts and you are likely to find that your sales of these products increase in the run up to Christmas and possibly around Father's Day. Make sure that you have enough stock to cater for demand during this period.

Establish your customer profiles

Your market

It's likely that most of your customers will be members of the public although you may also have some trade custom from local angling clubs and coaches that buy items to be used by their members or pupils.

Members of the public might include:

  • serious amateur anglers
  • occasional or casual anglers
  • junior anglers
  • seniors (licences issued at the senior concession rate is the only category where the number is growing)
  • members of local angling clubs
  • tourists

Your trade customers might include:

  • local angling clubs
  • fisheries
  • local coaches and guides

Special offers and discounts

You'll probably offer a discount as a matter of course to your trade customers. How much discount will depend on your pricing policy and how much local competition there is. You could offer bigger discounts to customers who buy goods in large quantities.

Sales are traditionally held in January, although they may be held at other times too. You might decide to try occasional special offers. Many shops also give discounts to staff, family and friends. Keep a close eye on any special offers you do make to be sure that they are working for you. After all, these kinds of promotions might encourage extra sales, but they will also affect the amount of profit you make on each sale.

Promote your business

The right image

It's really important that your shop projects the right image to customers. Everything about the way your outlet looks and feels should be designed to attract new customers and to encourage existing customers to keep coming back regularly. You're likely to stock many different items, so try to make sure that your stock is arranged neatly and that customers can easily find what they want. This can also help to keep damage to your stock as low as possible and it'll make it easier for you to know when stock needs to be reordered. Some independent fishing tackle shops include photos of their outlet on their website. Have a look at some of these - they'll help you decide on what your shop should - or shouldn't - look like.

Try to make sure that your window displays are attractively laid out, changed regularly and include the most up to date equipment. Think about what would make you stop and look if you were a passer-by. If you offer other services, like rod repairs or hire, then it's probably worth advertising these in your window or on a sign outside the shop.

You and your staff play a key role in the image of the business. Customers will expect staff to be friendly, helpful and enthusiastic. Ideally, they'll also be knowledgeable about the products and equipment you stock, and about the local fishing.

Advertising your shop

You'll want to make sure that your potential customers know about you and the products and services you offer. It may be that the location of your shop will be so good that you don't need to advertise, or you may have to carry out some promotional activities.

There are a number of things you can do to promote your business, for example:

  • advertise in your local newspaper and any local directories
  • launch your own website, showing all the features that will attract customers to your outlet and, perhaps, offering an online ordering facility
  • think about using social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to promote your tackle shop
  • organise or sponsor a local fishing competition
  • have leaflets printed and send them to local angling clubs
  • hold demonstrations of new equipment
  • offer discounts and free goods on certain lines, for example, buy one lure get one free. Make sure you advertise special offers prominently
  • exhibit at a trade show
  • advertise in trade journals and magazines such as Angling Times and Angler's Mail
  • make sure your contact details are included in an online directory, like the one for members on the Angling Trust Fishing Info website. The website has been designed to work on all mobile devices so that anglers can locate tackle shops and other fishing-related resources while they're out and about
  • participate in National Fishing Month events

Buy an existing business

You might decide to buy an existing fishing tackle shop rather than start your own venture from scratch. Buying a going concern can mean that:

  • the premises, business equipment and shop fittings are already in place
  • a website for the business has been set up
  • there are established customers
  • the business can generate income immediately
  • suppliers have been identified and relationships established with them
  • the business has a track record, which can help if you are looking for finance
  • staff are already in place

However, look critically at any business that you are interested in to make sure that the price you negotiate with the seller is a fair one. Try to establish why the business is for sale - for example, is the owner keen to retire or is there another personal reason for selling up.

Your market research into the sector as a whole and the locality in particular will help you to establish whether or not the owner is selling because he or she can no longer generate enough income from the business. This may not necessarily deter you - many business people are confident that they can turn a failing business around. The important thing is to have established the current position so that the price you pay for the business is not too high.

Other matters to consider include:

  • the state of the premises, fittings, equipment and so on. Will you have to spend money refurbishing or replacing assets
  • the condition and value of any stock you are buying. Check this over carefully before agreeing a price
  • is the existing owner prepared to give you some training after you take over
  • existing staff rights
  • how to retain key personnel once you've taken over
  • does the business owe money that you will be responsible for
  • if you are paying for goodwill, to what extent does this depend on the skills and personality of the seller

Ask your accountant to look critically at the business accounts for the past three years and discuss with him or her the selling price in the light of what the accounts reveal. Make sure you budget for other professional fees such as legal fees and valuation and survey costs.

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