Fishing tackle retailer sector trends

(last updated July 2019)

What has been happening in the fishing tackle sector

Spending on leisure activities and tourism was buoyant during the mid 2000s, benefitting fishing tackle retailers. Although the economic downturn that began in the late 2000s saw people spending less on non-essentials like leisure activities as they tightened their belts, the comparatively inexpensive nature of angling (at the entry level at least) meant that participation suffered less than other pastimes. In fact, it appears that numbers may have increased as people looked for cheaper leisure activities.

Business may have been affected by the fact that independent tackle retailers in England and Wales can no longer issue fishing licences, which are now only available through Post Offices, by direct debit from the Environment Agency and online - either on the Post Office website or on the Gov.uk website. Licences in Northern Ireland can still be purchased from appointed distributors including tackle shops, although they can also be bought online on the NI Direct website. (In Scotland anglers don't require a rod licence, usually just a permit from the landowner.)

According to government figures around 4 million people in Britain take part in some form of fishing activity, making it one of the nation's biggest participation sports, although membership of angling clubs has seen a slight decline in recent years. Total rod licence sales increased during the closing years of the 2000s and, according to the Environment Agency, a record number of licences were sold in 2009/10 (around 1.4 million) as people looked around for a cheap alternative to leisure activities like going to football matches or the cinema. The number of licences issued for 2010/11 and 2011/12 was down slightly on 2009/10 but then fell substantially in 2012/13 and 2013/14 (to just over 1.2 million). The number of licences sold continued to fall in 2014/15 and 2015/16, finally falling to about 1.19 million sales in 2016/17.

Despite the fall in rod licence sales, fishing remains a very popular pastime in England and Wales - according to Sport England research, angling participation remained consistent during the first half of the 2010s. Scotland and Northern Ireland also have strong levels of participation, often among tourists and visitors who come specially for the fishing. However, bear in mind that the fishing tackle retail sector is highly competitive and, despite the recent economic upturn, anglers are still looking to buy the cheaper items like bait and accessories.

In April 2017 the cost of some licences increased for the first time in seven years although at the same time it became possible to buy an annual licence and licences for 12 to 16 year olds became free.

There are between 2,000 and 2,500 fishing tackle retailers in the UK, typically owner-managed businesses. It is estimated that the total annual market for fishing tackle is worth about £600 million. The number of retailers has been falling however due to there being more large shops (often chains like Angling Direct and Fishing Republic) with a huge range of stock, mail order sales through the internet and angling centres opening their own retail outlets.

In December 2016 the EU agreed sea bass management measures which restrict both the months when sea bass can be landed and the number. It was feared that the low daily recreational landing limit would harm both angling and the businesses, including the tackle trade, that depend on it. Despite representations from the angling community, the government confirmed in March 2017 that the new rules would be enforced. Although the UK voted in June 2016 to leave the EU, until the terms for leaving have been agreed the UK remains a member and must apply the rules.

As a result of the vote to leave the EU, the pound fell in value and inflation started to rise. A fall in the value of the pound affects fishing tackle retailers because many of the goods they supply are purchased from abroad. You will have to look carefully at your selling prices to make sure you maintain a reasonable margin but at the same time you will have to take into account the fact that inflation means that people will have less to spend.

Initiatives to boost angling

The ongoing efforts to clean up the UK's lakes and waterways and various schemes to encourage young people to take up fishing, such as Get Hooked On Fishing, National Fishing Month or the Take a Friend Fishing campaign, mean that the potential market for fishing tackle retail outlets is large. Industry initiatives such as the Angling Participation Fund launched by the Angling Trades Association in 2009 also help to boost the number of anglers. In the mid-2010s, the Angling Trust was asked by the government to produce a National Angling Strategy for 2013 to 2018 designed to increase participation in angling and halt the decline in rod licence sales (and, in time, return licence sales to the level achieved in 2009/10).

In February 2016 it was announced that the Angling Trades Association (ATA) and the Angling Trust (AT) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding. The aim of the collaboration is to ensure a sustainable future for angling by:

  • recruiting and retaining more anglers
  • campaigning to protect and improve fish stocks
  • fighting for the rights of anglers to fish for them

They hope that this will result in generating more customers for the trade.

Keeping up to date with developments

Joining a trade association is an excellent way of staying up to date with developments in your industry.

The Angling Trades Association (ATA) represents manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers of fishing tackle and equipment and provides members with regular industry statistics. You can contact the Association at 60 Windsor Avenue, London SW19 2RR or visit their website.

The Angling Trust (now merged with the Angling Development Board) is the umbrella organisation for all the principal angling and fisheries trade bodies and aims to raise the profile of angling and protect its interests. You can contact the Angling Trust at Eastwood House, 6 Rainbow Street, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 8DQ or visit their website.

The Angling Development Board of Scotland works in partnership with three fishing associations and undertakes projects aimed at benefiting all forms of angling in Scotland. Visit the ADB Scotland website for more information.

The Gov.uk website provides details of fishing licences, angling participation, rod fishing byelaws and other fishing-related topics.

Visit the FishPal website for detailed information about all types of rod fishing in the UK.

There are many trade journals and magazines that you can read to keep up to date with developments in the sector such as Angling Times and Angler's Mail which are available from most newsagents.

Trade shows

You will be able to obtain a lot of useful information if you go to a trade show for the sector such as the Tackle & Guns event. You will be able to meet manufacturers, suppliers and importers and plan your future stock buying. Information about forthcoming trade shows can be found on the Exhibitions UK website.

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