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Nielsen cancels FlyFishing Retailer contract, invites all to Summer Market

Nielsen Business Media has formally parted ways with the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) and has announced it will end an 11-year run of producing the FlyFishing Retailer trade show.

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Nielsen Business Media has formally parted ways with the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA) and has announced it will end an 11-year run of producing the FlyFishing Retailer trade show. In a statement emailed the morning of Dec. 1, Kenji Haroutunian, group show director for Outdoor Retailer and FlyFishing Retailer, said, “The entire fly-fishing industry is invited to join Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Tradeshow in 2010 as the FlyFishing Retailer Trade Expo will no longer be held in Denver.” (Click here to read the entire Outdoor Retailer news release.)

The announcement by Nielsen follows a vote by the AFFTA board on Oct. 13 to turn down an offer from Nielsen to merge the existing FlyFishing Retailer Expo with Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. (Click here to read the Oct. 16, 2009, SNEWS® story, “AFFTA votes against merging FlyFishing Retailer show with Outdoor Retailer.)

In a prepared statement issued on the heels of Nielsen’s announcement it was cancelling FlyFishing Retailer Expo, AFFTA Chairman Alan Gnann said, “When the Outdoor Retailer proposal was first brought to the AFFTA board’s attention, the board was interested in the opportunities this combination offered. The thought of having our show within a show the size and caliber of OR was initially felt to be a reasonably good fit.”

The release went on to allege that when a final floor space offer was put forward, the total space allotted to the fly-fishing industry was “grossly insufficient” and that the show within a show concept was not even presented and there was no space allowed for indoor casting ponds. Moving the show forward into early August was also seen as detrimental to the industry. (Click here to read the full AFFTA news release.)

Apparently, after the AFFTA board rejected the Nielsen merger proposal, it entered into negotiations to acquire the rights and licenses to the existing FlyFishing Retailer Expo from Nielsen, but those negotiations broke down.

“After it became clear we would not be able to acquire the rights to the show, we asked Nielsen to either produce the FlyFishing Retailer Expo under our existing contract, or terminate the agreement,” Gnann told SNEWS.

According to Gnann, Nielsen notified AFFTA right at the deadline that it would release AFFTA from the show production contract and that Nielsen would no longer be producing FlyFishing Retailer.

“It was certainly not an easy emotional decision to cancel a trade show we have been producing for 11 years, and we will, of course, still continue to support AFFTA at a basic level just like we do so many other associations working to grow the outdoor market,” Haroutunian told us. “But, from a business perspective, FlyFishing Retailer Expo wasn’t helping the overall fly fishing business; it was doing less with the same. We know that what fly fishing needs at this time is to do more with less, and to build participation and influence with like-minded partners who are in the business of encouraging and outfitting outdoor recreation.

When asked about Outdoor Retailer inviting all former FlyFishing Retailer Expo attendees to build on the core strength of the industry by connecting with a larger collection of relevant businesses at Summer Market, Gnann told us AFFTA had its own plans in the works and would not endorse any other show.

“We will be issuing a press release making it clear that AFFTA is not endorsing the Outdoor Retailer trade show or any other show for that matter,” Gnann told us. “In our board meeting today, we passed a motion to announce to the industry that AFFTA will be producing and sponsoring and endorsing an independent show sponsored by AFFTA in 2010.”

Gnann confirmed to SNEWS that AFFTA will now engage in discussions with organizations that have already demonstrated the capability to produce well-run trade shows and those discussions will include organizations that AFFTA already has relationships with, such as the International Sportsman’s Expo (ISE).

“We already have a strong relationship on the consumer side with ISE as a sponsor in both the Denver and San Mateo locations,” said Gnann. “We are also talking with Chuck Furimsky and others.”

Furimsky is the show director for The Fly Fishing Show, a series of consumer-oriented fly-fishing shows held around the country.

When asked why AFFTA has not been more open about its exploration for new trade show partners, Gnann told us, “Until last night (Nov. 30), we were unable to do a number of things as a result of the contract. But we will be moving quickly and have ideas and contacts already in place. I would expect we should be making an announcement about our new show and partner certainly before the end of the year.

“In making our decision, AFFTA will strongly consider its mission, which is to support and grow the fly-fishing industry, and we will make our decisions regarding the show keeping that mission statement firmly in mind,” he added.

Haroutunian pointed out that if AFFTA wishes to be successful with any show it produces, it must reverse the dramatic decline in attendance FlyFishing Retailer Expo experienced over the last few years by becoming much more relevant to its entire exhibitor base.

“The bottom line is AFFTA never really got the support of its industry like OIA has done with the outdoor market,” Haroutunian told SNEWS. “Between 60 to 70 percent of exhibiting companies at Outdoor Retailer trade shows are members of OIA. Now, you could argue that is because of the exhibiting discount to members, but we started offering the same program to AFFTA, and other than with the big brands you would expect, they never managed to capture the imagination of their exhibitor base. In fact, only 20 percent of the FlyFishing Retailer Expo exhibitors were ever AFFTA members and that is just not critical mass.”

Despite the reasoning, there are many, like Bill Klyn, international fishing development manager for Patagonia, who find the news a bit disheartening.

“Seeing the relationship with Nielsen and American Fly Fishing Trade Association come to a less than positive end is disappointing. As chairman of AFFTA during the transition of show promoters from Down East Enterprises to Miller Freeman (now Nielsen) 11 years ago, we had spent many hours with David Loechner (senior vice president of Nielsen Business Media) developing a more dynamic show that would help fund the efforts of AFFTA,” Klyn told us. “Challenging economic times and a changing industry over the past few years have taken its toll.”

Klyn went on to say that Patagonia would always continue to support the fly-fishing trade association’s efforts to promote the fly-fishing industry, solve issues and enhance natural resources.

We asked Klyn if he felt fly-fishing retailers and exhibitors might embrace Outdoor Retailer.

“As for OR, I envision a number of companies who would attend. Early August dates will initially present challenges to fly-fishing manufacturers who have scheduled their new product development around the September date,” said Klyn. “With fly shops in the middle of their busy season, they may find challenges for attending as well. However, there are significant benefits to fly-fishing dealers at OR, mainly discovering companies and opportunities for new revenue streams.”

–Michael Hodgson