Why You Should Support IFTD

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Admittedly this is a bit of an insider piece but even if you don’t make your living in the fly fishing industry I think you’ll find it interesting and it actually does affect you as an angler.

The International Fly Tackle Dealers Show (July 10-12 in Las Vegas) is the biggest event on the fly fishing industry calendar. It’s when manufacturers from around the world come together to show off their products for the coming year to fly shop owners, buyers, sales reps, guides and anyone else in the business who’s interested. It’s when a lot of shops place their preseason orders and manufacturers get a handle on how much product to produce. It’s also the time when a lot of beer vanishes and steam gets blown off and old friends see each other once a year.

It’s exciting, fun and a business opportunity that should not be missed. However, in recent years there has been a good bit of grousing and infighting about the logistics of the show and attendance has suffered. While AFFTA (American Fly Fishing Trade Assoc.), the body that runs the show, has struggled with dates and venues in an effort to keep IFTD relevant for all concerned many shop owners and some manufacturers have felt better served by making connections on their own rather than attend the show.

I’m not going to waste time rehashing the arguments on both sides. Almost everybody knows what they are and that there is no solution that will please all parties. The points I would like to make are these:

Attending the show in spite of its flaws is good for your business whatever your role may be.

Boycotting the show is bad for the industry at large.

Why should you go?

Here are a few reasons.

The fly fishing business is a who-you-know business. It’s a small community and it’s built on personal relationships. There is absolutely no replacement for face time. For example, if I want to write about a new fly line, I pick up the phone and call the man who designed it. We catch up, I get detailed information for my readers and maybe we make a plan to go fishing. There’s a lot more going on there than on a chart. My review of the line is better so I get more traffic and more ad sales. It’s that simple. I have heard people complain that IFTD is just a big party. If you’re thinking that, you’ve missed the point and you need to learn to be a more effective networker. Maybe the best testament I can give to the power of networking is this. If you are reading my blog, you are likely aware of the placement of my photography throughout the industry in advertising and editorial, online and in print, on packaging and trade show booths. The only thing I have ever done to promote my fly fishing photography is attend IFTD.

If you run a fly shop your ability to sell product depends on your knowledge of that product and your ability to give your customers pertinent and accurate information. At IFTD virtually every gear designer on the planet is in one room, ready to answer your questions candidly. Or would you rather get your information from a sales rep or product catalogue? If that kind of access isn’t enough, AFFTA has arranged numerous seminars aimed at helping you improve your business and ability to sell.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a quote from Andy KurKulis @ Chicago Fly Fishing.

“The seminars have materially improved almost every part of our business, and should absolutely be experienced”

It’s true that if you, the fly shop owner, decide not to attend IFTD the big manufacturers will come to you. The Simms bus will come to your parking lot and the rep will show you all the new product for next year. (I’m not slamming Simms or their bus, it’s a great program.) So, what have you missed? The innovators. The new and fresh designers on the cutting edge. The small businesses that operate here in the U.S. The Howler Brothers and Kast and Smithfly and Cheeky and Veedavoo and a bunch of other great products that no one would know about without IFTD. So stay home and wait for the bus and see what happens. Sooner or later fly shops will be just like Wal-Mart, manned by idiots and full of the same Chinese crap.

This is an exciting year to go to IFTD. We will be sharing the hall, for the first time, with ICAST (the conventional gear show). That means that you can check out all of the fly fishing gear on the IFTD side then stroll across the isle to the Shimano booth at no extra charge. Two kick ass shows for the cost of one. That’s hard to beat. Exhibitor booth sales are up to three times what they were last year, promising lots more to see and lots more folks to meet.

Those of us who make our livings in the fly fishing business are truly fortunate. There isn’t a one of us who wants to give that up. The IFTD show is the pumping heart of our industry and there has never been a more important time to support it. Let’s put the argument aside and all come together in Las Vegas to get some business done.

Get more info on IFTD HERE!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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10 thoughts on “Why You Should Support IFTD

  1. Thanks for the mention Louis, I couldn’t agree more. Hopefully the merger with iCast will bring in more Fly Shops this year.

    IFTD has become like a river, you never set foot in it the same way twice.
    (or something like that…)

  2. Great article, Louis. Your arguments are spot on. The bottom line is that if you’re an individual who makes your living in the fly fishing industry – as a guide, shop owner, manufacturer, sales rep, writer, lodge owner, outfitter, or in any other capacity – then you need to be a part of this event. These are the people that need to join AFFTA, attend the show, and keep the “pumping heart of the industry” (as you so aptly describe it) beating strong. There are hobbyists and weekend anglers. Both are great. If you’re a professional in this industry, however, then get involved and BE a professional. Thanks for taking the time to write about this, Louis, and keep up the good work.

  3. For starters, boycotting is not the same as making a business decision. We are not attending the show because the ROI in our opinion will be minimal. Many other manufacturers and dealers feel the same way. We attended an ICast show a few years ago and it was a dismal event for us. ICast people are not our customers. So blending the shows does not seem like a viable solution for the FF industry.
    Secondly, if you haven’t noticed, our industry is in the process of being consolidated, both at the manufacturer and retailer level. It is just the natural progression of things.
    Thirdly, the ability to walk across the aisle to see the big boys does not bode well for small manufacturers in the FF industry. What dealers will find is numerous Chinese manufacturers selling goods at rock bottom prices that were developed elsewhere.
    I have a lot of faith in the flyfishing industry and I know that our future will be good as long as we can maintain our identity. Being swallowed up by the general fishing industry is not in our best interests.
    What’s a viable alternative to an annual show? If I knew that I would sell my idea to Google.

  4. Tossing around the idea of heading out. Timing is horrible with follow up travel I have after the show, but it seems like too good of a networking opportunity to pass up.

  5. I own and operate an independent specialty fly shop and I agree with all of your points.

    Is the IFTD at the right time? … No
    Does I-CAST have any value for my business? … Little
    Is Las Vegas the place I want to be in July? … Hell NO!

    But I am going.
    There is a cost to doing business. Having strong vendor relationships is vital. Communicating and expressing my concerns and successes will help shape the future of both my business and the industry at large.

    The issues, such as how we grow our sport, can only be addressed at venues such as IFTD.

    Hope to see ya there.

  6. Louis,

    thank you for expressing the importance of IFTD in such an articulate manner. For a time, I followed others, and placed less value upon this show, but, time and experience has changed my mind.

    It is often difficult for me to convey to others the importance of this show, and my feeling is that particularly this year, whilst we are sharing the hall with ICAST, this glimpse into the greater world fishing business, will offer some unique and unexpected insights for us all.

    I would also like to meet Bill Dance.

    Thats the way that the show is, its like fishing, the only way to guarantee a skunking is to stay home.

    thanks also for G and G

    Frank Smethurst

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