The fishing community is obviously not inspired by Statistics SA’s positive growth figures for June. Retailers attending the annual SAFTAD fishing tackle trade show in July and August this year kept a fairly low profile, exhibitors reported. The overwhelming feedback from exhibitors was that the 2017 Durban and Johannesburg fishing tackle trade shows were very quiet.

That is despite Stats SA recording June’s retail sales growing 2.9% from the year before, and second quarter sales growth of 2.2.

The reduced number of retailers who took the trouble of attending the annual trade show in Johannesburg was cause for concern for 75% of the exhibitors who gave Sports Trader feedback about this year’s show – and the low number of exhibitors and visitors at the Durban show prompted an exhibitor who wishes to remain anonymous to question whether this show still has a life.

“The venue was fine, the weather was great, our stand was good, but the numbers of retailers were down,” says Patrick Franck (middle) from W.E.T. Sports Importers, here with Andrew (left) and Darren Wentzel. Photo Louis du Toit.

Yet, all exhibitors could name benefits they derive from exhibiting at the show – with introducing their ranges and company to new retail customers and meeting established retail customers face to face topping the list.

The majority also believe there is no downside to exhibiting at SAFTAD, except “that most retailers know when new product is going to be released, so very little buying happens leading up to the trade show,” commented Garth Liefeldt from Thornveld Angling.

For out of town exhibitors, the cost of being there and getting there could be a deterrent “but it is relative to the amount of potential business we can do,” believes Patrick Franck from W.E.T. Sports Importers, based in Cape Town.

Although he expected it to be a lot busier, he connected with 24 potential new customers, says first-time exhibitor Colin Farrer of Corsport. Photo Louis du Toit.

And that probably explains the relative optimism about the Johannesburg show, despite fewer retailers: the visitors who attend this show come to do business. None of the respondents to our snap show found that the visitors to their stands were only browsers. Those, who did browse did so with the promise of placing orders at a later stage, or did place orders.

Pure Fishing
Pure Fishing considers the SAFTAD shows as an opportunity to showcase new products and discuss existing ranges with customers. Photo Louis du Toit.

“Retailers want to keep their knowledge current on what is new, or coming, as well as what products are continuing or being discontinued,” says Graham Hills of Pure Fishing. “We see these shows as an opportunity to showcase our new products and discuss existing ranges to assist customers in making informed decisions, as well as to give the in-store staff a better understanding of our products.”

The Kingfisher
Mike Phillip (left) and The Kingfisher team always do brisk business at SAFTAD. Photo Louis du Toit.

A sign of the times, however, is the buying habits of the majority of visitors: in these tough times they mainly came to replenish product lines, report half of the respondents, although there were some who were very interested in new products from exhibitors with higher end products, or in buying accessories.

That said. “They were crying out for new, innovative products,” says Franck, “not necessarily higher end products.”

Stealth Fishing
Visitors were interested in the new, higher end products on the Stealth Fishing stand, says Gareth Adams. Photo Louis du Toit

This year, there were 42 exhibitors in Johannesburg – two more than last year, but still quite a few less than the 50 plus exhibitors five years ago when the show was abuzz with visitors from more than 250 retail companies. This year there were eight new exhibitors, including the distributors of the award-winning Savage Gear in South Africa.  A stalwart from previous shows – Halco – no longer exhibited on its own as the brand has now joined the enormous Sensational Angling stable.

One of the new exhibitors, who wishes to remain anonymous, was hoping that an extra day would be added for the public during the trade show.

Scientific Fly
Arno Laubscher (right) has gained local and international success with his Scientific Fly company. Photo: Louis du Toit.

Almost half of the exhibitors who responded to our questions were also gearing up for the satellite trade shows in Port Elizabeth, Knysna and Cape Town, which have become a fixture of the fishing tackle buying season.

Brentoni Distributors
Sarah Beamish of Brentoni Distributors is one of the show veterans. Photo Louis du Toit.

This – as well as the pre-SAFTAD roadshows by some bigger distributors – have been a hot topic for debate amongst exhibitors for a few years. “Regional shows are also under threat, and customers need to be encouraged to attend the Johannesburg show,” says a long-time exhibitor who wanted to be anonymous. “Show organisers need to think about being more welcoming and perhaps give retailers a cash incentive from exhibitors to attend the Johannesburg show.”

T-Line Pro
Mike de Gouveia greets a customer on his T-Line Pro stand. Photo Louis du Toit.