On my way home from post Thanksgiving festivities, I made a quick stop at a couple fly shops looking for a few fly tying materials. After visiting a few shops, I looked back and reflected on each experience and came up with a few mental notes. Every fly shop is unique and as different as the rivers we fish, and  thus should have a different feel. Each of the places I visited left me with a different experience. I worked many years in retail and continue to be in the service industry today. I shall not mention names nor stores but everyplace I walked into, I could’ve walked out with more. I’m always going to walk into your store and buy a package of hooks, some rubber legs and some dubbing (that I don’t really need)- Please, help me buy more!!!  In one of the shops today, the owner/employee never got up from his chair, nor acknowledged I was there. When I inquired about business, his reply was dismal and said everyone was out hunting. Here are a few suggestions for shop owners to help improve your sales against the larger big box stores.

Customer Service~ exactly that. by definition, it is the provision of service before, during, and after purchase. The perception of success of such interactions is dependent on employees “who can adjust themselves to the personality of the guest.” These days, we, the consumer seem to be making most of the pre-purchase research either from reading on the inter web or from magazines. Most of the time, I generally know what it is I am looking for. But what if you have a similar product by another company or manufacturer name? That’s where the customer service comes in.

Helpful shop staff makes a big difference in sales.

Great Fly shop~

  • Greet the customer when they come in the door. It’s nice to see a smile and be recognized when you come in. You can improve your sales greatly by engaging with the guest as they enter the store. I know in my day working as a fly shop jockey, most of our time is spent behind the computer watching YouTube videos of Hank Patterson or catching up on who’s catching what fish on Facebook.
  • When a customer asks if you have another size of a certain hook style or a smaller bead head or a different color marabou or snowshoe rabbit foot, perhaps you could come over and help them find what they’re looking for. It is your store and engaging with customer can spur more sales.
  • Know your product lines. don’t just talk about one or two things or one manufacturer. I may have walked in the store looking for one or two small items but I’ve had my mind on a new eight weight for a long time. if you talk me into the difference between a couple of rods or line makes I might buy something more. I regularly have the highest wine and liquor sales in the restaurant I work at but have not had a drink of alcohol in 14 years if you don’t talk about it you can’t sell it.
  • to many, this many choices can cause irrational thought.


  • I may not purchase the big $500 waders, or fly rod/reel combo set today, but how you treat me when I ask about those items will make me more inclined to return to your store and buy other smaller items or bigger things for gifts for other people on my shopping list. (Like that Titan Rod Vault.)
  • If you have a shop dog cool. I’m a dog guy. I have two labradors at home. Make sure your shop dog is a friendly dog. But not too friendly. I don’t want your Rhodesian Ridge-back rubbing up on my leg and making my girls jealous when I get home. Hopefully, all dogs are children friendly, as this is the time of year they most likely will be tagging along with mom or dad.
  • Lighting and music are both very important to making the customer feel welcomed. Obviously not too bright too much fluorescent light gives off a bad color on various fly tying materials. But you don’t want to dark either so that you can’t see what you’re looking for. It is nice if you have some flyfishing videos playing on a small screen but don’t have it too loud so that it deters from answering any of the shoppers questions. Having a small DVD/TV monitor playing local videos or Fly Fishing related fish porn can help sell other various media-books and DVD’s, for holiday stocking stuffers.
  • Pay special attention to the lady shoppers. They are often the ones buying the gifts or stocking stuffers for the Flyfisher in the household. And don’t be surprised if they aren’t the main angler. These days, they’re a lot more women out there that know more about what’s going on than some of the guys that may walk in your store…
  • It’s the holidays! Fresh-baked goods and a fresh pot of coffee can do a lot to make a guest feel welcome. When I walk in and smell cinnamon or vanilla aromas, I immediately feel relaxed. It is proven that certain scents will enhance sales because a person automatically feels like they’re at home when they walk into your establishment. If you bake up for a couple dozen cookies, at the end of the day the shop owner and shop Jockey can either have them or save them for the next day and have a party later. Kill two birds with one stone and brew a fresh pot of his not cinnamon coffee and you’ll have me there for hours.
  • Say what you want about those ‘other’ stores that also sell dog beds; they have a phenomenal customer service. From the moment you walk in the door, you feel like you have met up with an old lost friend. They don’t make a judgment call whether you’re steelhead guy or a ‘dry-fly’ trout guy or panfish worm & bobber guy – you’re a guy with money in your pocket and want to spend it. They also know all the product that they have on hand and are willing to talk and sell you on all aspects of whatever they have in store. I am not looking for a fishing report, I can clearly see over your shoulder on Facebook that a dozen steelhead were caught today between the Muskegon and the PM, I just want some help finding some materials to make my experience a pleasant shopping one.

Have a Great Holiday and remember to SHOP LOCAL!

Nomad Anglers