Tag: luxury goods

Should the fly fishing industry can its marketing departments and double its prices?

Withering interest and recession staring it in the face, the fly fishing industry faces extraordinary challenges. If it’s not dealing with the fact that it has drastically overloaded its own product lines and twisted the outgoing message for optimum confusion, there’s always the Madoff family connections. Meanwhile, the crew is rushing to the web, trying to maintain contact with a customer that already has too much gear and too little time to listen. My singular observations have found that communication is sometimes muddled, and often contradictory to what’s being shared behind the scenes. I suspect it’ll get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

None of that seems to matter to Stanley and Stephen Bogdan:

The Bogdans are navigating this recession just as they have every other one over the last seven decades: by staying small and doing things their own way. Every part of a Bogdan reel, save for the springs, is tooled by Stanley or Stephen, S.E. Bogdan Custom Built’s sole employees. In their garage-size shop in New Ipswich, N.H. stands a table littered with dozens of boxes, each containing different parts of a fly-fishing reel: discs of stainless steel, screws, brake shoes, anodized aluminum frames and spools. Armed with a 130-year-old Flather lathe and a 50-year-old Van Norman milling machine, the pair churn out only 100 reels a year and have a three-year backlog. They hold no patents, take no deposits from customers (“That way they can’t bug me, and I have control,” says Stanley), store no files, designs or accounts on a computer (they don’t own one) and do no advertising.

No Madison Avenue, and certainly no social network. They did all this by building a reputation early on, and sticking to ideals of slow growth and maintaining an air of exclusivity.

While Forbes fails to mention much about the reliability and/or warranty on Bogdans (something diehard anglers think a whole lot about), the maker still has its fans in that regard:

Your comments about Bogdans slipping when wet are completely off base. At least in my experience. All they require is to be oiled with light machine oil. Pull the spool and oil the drum once every 2 or 3 years with but a couple drops of plain old oil. I have been fishing mine for almost 10 years now and have ZERO problems with them hydroplaning after being dunked. In fact this trait is one more reason why Bogdan has produced the best hand made reel in the history of fishing. Ages old technology that functions superbly with looks and sounds that kill. For nearly 60 years, Salmo.

As a company in this day and age, you have to love the fact that someone can criticize your product, and a defense will be mounted without you having to personally send hoards of your own folks over to ‘lawyer up.’

There’s a chance somewhere between slim and none that I’ll ever own a Bogdan. I go for utility, and that means being able to tumble down a trail without crying later that my gear was torn up. For much the same reason I don’t cast bamboo – it just isn’t easily repairable – I doubt people who spend thousands on a reel would view them as discard-able either.

And then there’s the auction prices…

bogdan-ebay

I certainly don’t want to see prices of all fly gear reach these levels, and although I wouldn’t be particularly concerned from a personal standpoint if it did (I have way too much gear as it is already) I’d still like to see new entrants to the sport that aren’t stressing about whether they can make their next car payment in the meantime. Further, I’m not particularly opposed to marketers per se – I know and adore my fair share of them. Seth Godin once said, “all marketers are liars” – I think that’s a little harsh, but I do take the practice with a grain of salt and keep moving.

Still, it gets (at least) me thinking…should the industry scale back and return to its roots, instead of trudging ahead with growth plans that could easily be construed as fast closing in on a brick wall? Many a successful turnaround has done just that.

Around the world in nine paragraphs flat – 03/30/09

World MapTechnology

– Jeff Bezos spent a week working in one of his own warehouses. When I first heard about it, I thought he was making a shift from strategic to operational, with an eye to cutting some costs. I was right. But I admire the man and the company enough that I can only believe those that were cut were treated right. If they weren’t, I’m assuming those cut couldn’t cut it themselves. I have a couple of friends working their, and have, on occasion, wished I could join the fun.

– Google layed off some sales folks in the past few weeks, and I imagine it’s all for the better. Their top dog of sales, Tim Armstrong, is gone. New blood replaces, and cohesion will be key to Google’s finding their next growth spurt. Will the next chapter in Google’s story be charging full steam into the enterprise? They don’t want to suffer the curse of eBay, but I hope they don’t listen to BusinessWeek either – those guys suggest they first buy Twitter and then get better at acquisitions.

– On that note, Twitter and Facebook are capturing so gosh darn much attention I’d usually be willing to bet that they’ll fizzle out in the blink of an info tech eye. But I don’t actually think that’s going to be the case.

twitsearch

I’m bullish on Twitter and Facebook – just wholeheartedly bearish on all the media who can’t find another story.

facesearch

And, I’m feeling sorry for the folks on the job hunt after they get their master’s degrees in social networking, as well as those businesses that try hitching a ride based solely on advertising. This is one godawful hype brawl, and plenty of folks are going to get knocked out.

Finance

– The S&P has been on a tear the last few weeks, but now it has the Quadruple Confirmed Evil Knievel Formation to contend with. If that technical analysis wizardry isn’t enough for you, there’s another economic bubble about to rear it’s ugly head. It’s called the budget deficit.

– In the luxury goods department, modern art prices are getting slashed and burned as collectors run to the masters. I’m not surprised – tossing a couple of cans of paint on a 20′ X 20′ canvas and calling it a million bucks was bound to fizzle on the business model front. The art world is certainly not without it’s scammers. Top shelf wine lovers are getting a bit more cautious now too – cult wine lists, space on which once sold to the highest bidder (yes, before you got your first bottle), are now looking for the last sucker too. Once the lists start including grape juice in a box, I’m in.

– This morning’s Asian markets were closing on an ugly note, with the Nikkei and Hang Seng off over 4.5%. Meanwhile, some commodities prices are on the skid as well. US markets have been on a tear as of late, but Nouriel Roubini was also saying a few weeks back to expect a bear market rally. I thought he might just be a little tired from all the media attention, and yet things are shaping up for him to be right. Again.

Fly Fishing

– There’s a recession in fly fishing – interest is down and nobody seems to have a solution yet. Still, there are a few folks keen on catching a big trout on the fly – my only suggestion is that instead of putting that goal on a list of things to do before dying, why not try making a habit of it. Easier said than done, and probably a significant part of the reason fly fishing is taking a hit – it’s less instant gratification than constant aggravation. Neverthless, I am, and shall remain, a glutton for punishment.

– Thomas McGuane wrote what is easily my favorite book on fly fishing, The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing. And this last weekend he took aim at shotguns, dogs, and dinner. I’m all for dogs and dinner, as long as the dogs aren’t begging for mine. As for the shooting, I’m pretty sure I’ll be spending more time at the clays course this summer, and I’ll credit the story as well. As for my dog, he’s a herder. Anyone have some spare sheep?

And finally…

– Speaking of the Wall Street Journal, there’s been a lot of hype about ‘brownlining’ over the past few weeks, and with Denver’s urban South Platte on center stage. Fly fishing history is being rewritten, and there’s even a new ‘nation’ for those who’ve been busted scratching rocks with their cleats and are now banished from the clear stuff. Even wholly unprofessional (at fly fishing) jokers such as myself have been fielding inquiries as to how it’s done, as well as a few more that say “great going Gracie…now the the joint is going to be packed all summer.” I don’t know how it’s done (I’m just lucky), and as for the crowds, well the flows looked docile in that WSJ video, but said water level won’t be a crowd pleaser for much longer…

South Platte Flow

MG signing off (to get some more coffee)

Persistent “brand fake” suits will kill litigants’ secondary markets

eBay has been successfully sued by Louis Vuitton & Company over brand fakes being sold on the site. eBay may have lost this case because the courts are unable to discern between platforms and the users of said platforms, but there’s a bigger issue at hand. eBay maintains that the companies suing them are more concerned with controlling their respective markets:

“If counterfeits appear on our site, we take them down swiftly,” eBay spokeswoman Sravanthi Agrawal said. “But today’s ruling is not about counterfeits. Today’s ruling is about an attempt by LVMH to protect uncompetitive commercial practices at the expense of consumer choice and the livelihood of law-abiding sellers that eBay empowers every day.”

I’m inclined to agree – everyone wishes they were DeBeers, but the way eBay is spins this could make one think they are the sole victim here. In actuality, I think that these litigants are inadvertently killing their own market with their efforts.

The luxury goods set, the primary targets here, rely on consistent turnover of their product to maintain their appeal. Each year new designs come out, and are paraded across magazines – the affluent, early adopters (the core customer base) are first to grab the goods. But these “must have now” industries don’t rely solely on the top tax bracket – if they did they wouldn’t bother advertising – instead they would rely on the word of mouth circling elite cocktail parties. No, there is a secondary market that wants to be like the elite, and their avenue for “upper-crustship” is simply looking the part. These wannabes can’t really afford draping the latest LV bag over their arm each and every season, but they mortgage themselves to the hilt to do so anyway.

And when the extraordinarily overpriced item shows up on the credit card bill, they pass on last season’s via any means they can to get that bill paid – one of those means just so happens to be an internet site called eBay. eBay is marketplace, and marketplaces provide liquidity – all Louis Vuitton and the rest of their ilk are doing when they sue eBay is reducing that liquidity. It’s no different than if the SEC, the NASD, and the Fortune 1000 got together and declared that secondary stock sales could no longer be executed via an online brokerage account – their shares would plummet thereafter.

I suspect the volume of brand-named handbags being hucked will start doing the same fairly soon.

UPDATE: Ditto.