FISH STORIES: Fishermen aren’t big Internet shoppers, preferring to come in to the shop and fondle the hooks, lures and other gear.
RIGA - Despite the economic crisis, people still do not give up their hobbies. Hobby shops devoted to fishing and hunting continue their business, despite a general decrease in the retail business by about 30 percent. However, consumer behavior in this segment has changed – people choose cheaper products and buy only things they really need.
The prices for the goods in specialized sport shops haven’t changed for years. The shops try to compete mainly with a range of products and services. “We do offer brands of different price categories. And what we see now is that people choose the most basic things in the lower price category. The number of fishermen hasn’t changed, but the amount of spending on fishing equipment has,” says the director of retail fishing shops Esma, Janis Frolovs, to The Baltic Times. The company was established in 1994 and now, with their 5 shops and one Internet shop, is one of the leading companies which sell fishing tackle.
As Frolovs points out, fishing products are not for Internet sales. People mainly prefer to come to the shop to see the products and to talk to the shop assistant. The only exception is fishermen from the regions who cannot come to shops in Riga.
“We put emphasis on client service in our shops. All our shop assistants are fishermen who can give valuable advice in choosing the equipment,” says Frolovs.
He says that the most popular price category now is from 20-30 lats (28.50-42.8 euros), when before the economical crisis it was about 50 lats.
But despite the drop, the competition in this segment is very high. There are about 70 fishing shops in Riga alone, and several market players have just started their business this year. “We feel the competition, but this is good because it makes us think on improvement of our business all the time. Now we plan to launch a loyalty card program. We cannot afford TV or radio advertising, but we are present in the only fisherman media – Copes Lietas. And we also try to represent good quality brands which people can find only in our shops in Latvia,” add Frolovs.
Some market participants also see benefits for their business in the economic crisis. “Due to the crisis, the companies who weren’t obeying the market rules and ran unfair businesses have now disappeared. Only a few are left, those who run their business correctly,” says Maksim Proskurin, the director of Batiskaf, a leading diving and spearfishing equipment shop in Latvia.
He says the crisis has forced the company to go through all its business and management processes in order to find the most effective solutions. Maybe because of this, and also because of a slight increase in the economic situation now, sales volumes are back to normal again and in some areas they are even higher than before the crisis.
“In the early crisis years we experienced the situation that diving equipment almost stopped being in demand, and the second-hand market started blooming. The poor financial situation of many people forced them to start selling their own equipment, because they couldn’t anymore afford such a hobby which was connected with traveling. But our second category - spearfishing equipment - was growing despite the crisis. We could explain it as people had more free time. Also, spearfishing is somehow the source of food for some families.”
“We are very sensitive in terms of clients needs. If we see that one or another category starts to be in demand, we just offer it. We have a very good relationship with all of our suppliers - one of the biggest wholesale companies in the Baltic and Russia - Aquatex - so we can get the goods we need very quickly. Now we are trying to be very aggressive in Internet sales in the pan-Baltic market,” says Proskurin.
The director of hunting shops Purnavu Muiza, Arnis Berzins, says that their clients have also split into two categories. “The middle class has disappeared. Now we have mainly clients who are ready to pay less that 1,000 lats for hunting equipment, and those who spend more than 5,000 lats,” he says.
The company started its business in 2008, when the crisis had just started, and Berzins says that despite the economic situation, the business was growing. “We have few competitors, and we are the only ones offering such a range of services. In our shop the beginner could be fully equipped; we also offer training courses and we are the only one in Latvia offering the hunting ‘Simulator.’”
This is the first modern virtual shooting gallery in Latvia, with a big screen, where everyone has an opportunity to train their shooting skills on flying, running, and standing targets. “Of course, it required additional investments, but it also gave us an additional competitive advantage,” says Berzins.
Additionally, several times per year the company organizes competitions and hunting tours around Latvia. “Hunting is, in a way, a very stagnant industry. We don’t have this hobby growing in Latvia. So the question is, where do those who want to buy something leave their money? So our main business is a hunting equipment shop. We have 28 brands in our shop, bought directly from the manufacturers or from their dealers,” says Berzins.