Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Hoot Owl Migration and Things That Make You Go Hmmm

Yesterday was a very good day to be on the Yellowstone once again. Good bite on hoppers and rubber legs, hardly a boat around, some bugs out, and even the Whitefish seemed happy once again. A little dusting of snow in the hills with some cool air and clouds in the sky. Felt much more like fishing weather than it has in months around here. The forecast is looking good for awhile too…I think we may finally be over the "hump."

Hoot Owls lifted on the Lower Madison, Gallatin, & East Gallatin today. More choices and less people out here right now = mo' beta fishin'. It has been a struggle the last couple of months, just hoping for a cool down that just barely squeaked its way in here with little to no effect. In hindsight, I actually started to like Carp fishing this year. Still don't get what's so hard about it….maybe I just am that good. I guess if you fish enough…anything is possible…even making a long cast WITH accuracy. It's one thing to make a long cast, but quite another to do it when you need to…or really want to. Enough gloating about my angling prowess, the fishing is getting good around here and I am excited for the weeks ahead!

Onward with the story of how Fins & Feathers was royally screwed by Simms in 2015/2016. Where we last left was early on after we had received the "its a go" from the sales rep in May 2015. I went through a line showing (doesn't sound like much, but it does take a lot of time…you only do it if you are ready to commit). We had the word that all parties were good with things and all we had to do know was do the official paperwork and write the order. So, everything was done by late June and I moved on with other projects, looking forward to starting to get things in stock come mid-October/2015.

I started to get a funny feeling around the time of the ICAST show in 2015 as I had blocked off some time with the rep to go over a few the lines and do a meet/greet at the Simms booth. I had the meeting, but there was obviously no meet/greet setup for us at the Simms booth. I was told that we would do that when we got back to Bozeman, things were too crazy at the booth. I had an unsettling feeling at that time that maybe things were not as had been laid out to me, but that seemed so preposterous that I chalked it off to too many days on the water in a row and an overdose of nicotine.

Keep in mind that this had affected our entire product mix (the overall products) for the wader, wading boots, clothing, and accessory plan for 2015. Our shop is relatively small and jammed with inventory, so we had to make some decisions regarding what we have room for, what the customers want, and what does our budget allow for. Whenever a business like ours decides to bring in more brands, the other competing brands typically become uncomfortable as they worry that their "slice of the pie" when it comes to our "open to buy dollars" will become smaller with more competition. So, we had to really emphasize relationship maintenance with everyone by being upfront with them in terms of our plans and how we expected these plans to affect our business with some of our most valued partners like Patagonia and Orvis. There were plenty of uncomfortable conversations that had to be made along with the reassurances that the addition of Simms product in these categories was intended to be exactly that and not a replacement. Needless to say, orders were pout together with more scrutiny than ever before and rather conservatively to boot once we had received the green light from the Simms rep, placed the order, filled out the paperwork, and received the confirmations that our order was in the queue at Simms for fall/spring delivery.

Between mid-July & mid-October, we had several conversations with the Simms sales rep regarding our enthusiasm for becoming a full dealer, possible marketing strategies, and our sales expectations. In hindsight, I don't think that they expected to receive an opening order from us in the $50K range, but that's what it ended up being. So, we were forecasting to increase our revenue by about $75K based on that order alone lever a 9 month window. That's not necessarily a large Simms order by any means, but it was a significant opening order for our business and one that we made based on a whole lot of factors including showing that we were willing to make a commitment to the Simms brand beyond a few waders, boots, and fishing shirts,

Honestly, there isn't a single manufacturer in the fly fishing industry that wouldn't stop and do a "double take" when a specialty retailer submits a $50K opening order. I was surprised that nobody from accounting or sales reached out to touch base with us regarding credit limits, payment terms, or even a little bit of a "thank you" for placing such a large opening order. In fact, the only logical explanation for Simms not saying anything to us was that they didn't know what was going on. That would be plausible to consider, even now, if not for the sales confirmation that I received and assurances that the order was in their system.

This went on and on throughout the summer of 2015 up until some dealer meetings her win Bozeman around mid-October. By this time, I was completely confused as to why none from Simms had sent me a dealer packet or even checked in to say "we are looking forward to having you on board" or thanks for the order. W head several interactions with some Simms folks at the dealer meetings and nobody said mum. I assumed that maybe this was getting a little uncomfortable and that all would be handled once the dealer meetings were over. I was told that all we were waiting on was for the sale manager to sign the dealer agreement which had been sitting on his desk for months. As to why we had been waiting for that long, the answer was something like it should have been taken care of weeks or months  ago and will get it handled ASAP.

It takes a lot of work and planning to prepare for an addition of this much inventory and sku's to a business like ours. We were starting to get concerned about allocating time to "build" the ski's in our system prior to the arrival of our first Simms shipment of $8-10K worth of products (wholesale) in early November. I was going to be out of the country and off the radar for a couple of weeks around then, so I wanted to make sure that our employees had everything they needed to receive and merchandise the order prior to my trip.

So, I went waged and bypassed the rep and went straight to the "horses mouth" in late October and reached out to the Simms sales manager. I was simply looking to finalize any paperwork and make sure that everything was in order prior to my trip. When I called him, he told me that this was the first that he had heard of any of this. He was going to do some checking and get back to me before I left for my trip. In my mind, I don't think I fully understood or believed him that he was unaware of us placing an order, becoming a dealer, etc as we had been going through the motions and submitting paperwork for months by that time. It's hard to say what happened at this point as the sales manager never called me back…like he said he would…he just blew us off.

I have been through a couple pretty "ugly" deals since starting this business in 2000. However, I don't recall ever running into a situation where someone told me that they were going to do something and just flat didn't do it. Well, I can say now that I have had that experience a couple of times and that it is exceptionally disappointing that this happened with folks that essentially work just a few blocks from where we are. It's not like we needed to exchange emails or arrange conference calls to coordinate schedules. So, I still don't  know what to make of all of this  as the only explanation is that I was lied to on multiple occasions and I just can't bring myself to accept the fact that grown up folks in the fly fishing industry should ever really need to deceive each other to the point to being labeled as liars. I guess, however, if I am objective about it that that really is what things come down to at this point. I

I was told things that were not true and I was told that people would do things that they did not do. I guess one could say that I was lied to, when I stop to look at it that way.

We are about halfway through the story…more to come!

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