By now I’m sure everyone knows that Orvis has purchased Ross and Scientific Anglers from 3M. Do we care?
Well, some of us do and there seems to de a division of opinions. When I started asking friends what they thought of the deal it didn’t take long for the words “dog bed” to come up. It’s a widely held assumption, especially with folks on the west coast, that a company can’t make a good fly rod and a good dog bed at the same time. There are even bumper stickers available slamming Orvis for not being a “real fly fishing co.” Frankly, I disagree with this assertion, and I’m going to tell you why.
Before I do I would like to acknowledge that Orvis is one of our advertisers. Please take a minute to click on their ad. That’s how we get paid, or hope to at least. My opinions on this subject have nothing to do with Orvis’ support of G&G. I’ve been making this argument for a long time and the Ross SA deal is just fuel on the fire.
Is Orvis a real fly fishing company?
Founded in 1856 and selling fishing and hunting gear exclusively, Orvis is the oldest mail order retailer in the U.S. In 1874, Charles Orvis designed and sold what has been called, the first modern fly reel. In the 1870s the fly fishing arm of Orvis was taken over by Mary Orvis, daughter of Charles, who published a landmark book of fly patterns. In the 1940s Orvis and rod maker Wes Jordan introduced the impregnated bamboo rod. Charles Orvis started donating company profits to conservation efforts in the 1800s and to this day Orvis gives 5% of its pre tax profits to conservation. That was a gift of over $10 million last year. In 1966 Orvis opened its first fly fishing school to bring new anglers into the sport and I believe it was some time in the mid 1980s when the company sold its first dog bed. WTF! does it take to be a real fly fishing company?
Should we examine 3M’s record? I’ll not waste your time.
What is Orvis guilty of?
In my opinion, primarily success. Orvis realized long ago what every fly shop owner has come to terms with in the past few years. You can’t stay in business catering to the hard core trout bums. Sorry guys, they call us bums for a reason. Orvis was the first company I know of to identify and market what has become known as ‘the fly fishing lifestyle’. It’s been very successful and dog beds are part of it.
Walk into your local fly shop and take a quick inventory. Tell me how much actual fishing gear you see and how much real estate is taken up by clothing, luggage, coffee mugs, artwork, and what-have-you. That’s the future and I’m fine with it and you should be too, and here’s why. If some fool wants to spend $300 on a dog bed to support a fly fishing company so that they can continue to sell fly rods with unconditional lifetime warranties, let him! And remember that 5% of that goes to trout conservation.
Why am I glad Orvis now owns Ross and SA?
I have dealt with all three of these companies as a customer, as a vender and as member of the media. One of them, without fail, always has their shit together. Care to guess which one?
Orvis has always provided the best customer service in the business. I broke my Orvis rod, walked into the Orvis store with it and no receipt, and walked out with a brand new one in five minutes. That’s remarkable!
When I have a question about some insanely technical fly fishing minutia, who do I email? And who takes time out of his busy schedule to find the answer and get back to me? Tom Rosenbauer, 30-year Orvis employee.
What does Orvis plan to do with Ross and SA?
First off, keep them as independent companies with their own brands and their own visions and their own dedication to producing quality gear. No one is suggesting that the companies will be folded into Orvis or closed to put them out of competition.
Second, fund them. Orvis, because they are a fly fishing company and they care about fly fishing will be increasing the budgets for both brands. How much and where the money will go is a question I can’t answer with any certainty but I’ve heard the word quadruple thrown around.
Third, offer leadership. The rumor is that Jim Lepage will be relocating and overseeing operations at SA personally. I have no word on any changes at Ross and am sensitive that folks are likely very nervous. It’s my impression that Orvis intends to manage in a supportive way and with a light hand.
What does this mean to the consumer?
Hopefully a strengthening of brands we have come to trust. A return of two great companies to management from within the fly fishing community. A rededication to a tradition of innovation and opportunity. An increased commitment to customer service and at the very least, a better night’s sleep for the dog.Louis Cahill Gink & Gasoline www.ginkandgasoline.com firstname.lastname@example.org Sign Up For Our Weekly Newsletter!