Tracking The Waterfowler’s Migration

The More A Retailer Can Collaborate With Vendors,
The Greater The Impact For All Parties

By Seth Dortch

Howard Communications

Waterfowl hunting is year-round, not just a season.

Regardless of the numbered days you can hunt in your state, the preparation for avid waterfowlers never ends. You may not realize it when you say, “Let’s remember that for next year” is a direct example you’re already preparing for the following year. Just as waterfowl hunting is 365, so, too are the operations and learning endeavors of a retailer engaged in the waterfowling segment.

Final Flight Outfitters Inc. (FFO) is an outdoor retailer specializing in waterfowl. It also has an e-commerce site and mail order catalog arm to the business. Located in Union City, Tenn., and founded by brothers, Jon Ed, Tripp and Kelley Powers, the identity of being one of the nation’s primary waterfowl retailers was not merely stumbled upon, but essentially developed and grown from the lifestyle they lived. Even though the company has grown at a rapid pace — resulting in a 25,000-square-foot showroom floor, over 100,000 mail order catalogs sent to 40 states, inventory catering to long-range shooting, self-defense, tactical shooting, deer hunting, the outdoor lifestyle and more — the roots of being founded on waterfowl retail can be seen throughout their entire brand.

One of FFO’s core values is: “Your success in the field is our success as a company.” It’s simple to put in words meeting a customer’s needs is the primary focus, but executing it in a business model isn’t always an easy task. Waterfowl hunters seek year-round how to pattern migrations and, likewise, waterfowl retailers seek year-round how to pattern a waterfowler’s buying experience — i.e., the waterfowler’s migration. So how exactly is this done?

Social Media: A No-Brainer

Have you pondered we (especially younger generations) now communicate more through a digital screen than in-person? What can a retailer do with this? Social media is a no-brainer for business growth, but how it can be effectively harnessed is constantly changing. It has completely revolutionized the way any business operates, along with consumer buying preferences.

FFO has learned one of the greatest uses of social media is not for just selling product, but interacting with consumers. Facebook and Instagram are the primary focus; Twitter and Snapchat are secondary. Throughout its Facebook platform, FFO’s interaction is predominately with 40–70-year-olds, while on Instagram, it trends lower (ages 16–40). Content must be specific for the age group: What may connect with a waterfowler who has been hunting for 30-plus years may not resonate with a waterfowler who is 18 years old. Just as different species of waterfowl migrate at different times, so, too, do separate age groups of waterfowlers connect in varying ways.

Just like your other hunters, new products drive interest among waterfowlers. A new addition to the MOJO Elite Series,
the King Mallard decoy boasts an advanced design that places the motor, battery and other operating components inside
a solid housing that attaches to a support pole. Less rattle creates a more realistic decoy.

Manufacturer Collaboration

Interacting with manufacturers is just as important as communicating with consumers. For the most part, manufacturers have a larger following on social media platforms and a greater reach overall. FFO’s marketing team has made it a priority to grow the normal relationship of being a stocking dealer for a brand into a greater asset many don’t utilize. Posting on an account with 650,000 followers compared to one with 4,500 represents a stark difference in total audience reached.

Research provided by some of the brands FFO carries — Higdon Decoys, Power Calls, Sitka Gear, Drake Waterfowl, Banded, Benelli, Beretta, etc. — can be utilized to get familiar with trend changes and consumer preferences of the waterfowl industry.

FFO Hard Goods Buyer Zach Taylor shared, “You can get all the information you want today, but reliable, good information isn’t always easy to find. Utilizing the information from the makers of the product is essential.”

Great growth yields when both the retailer and the manufacturer are benefiting from the partnership. Manufacturers need retailers for lasting growth; so the more they share with retail partners, the greater the benefit it is for them. For example, if you made a product capable of revolutionizing an industry but no one could ever touch it or see it in person, then how would it benefit the dealer or the consumer? The more a retailer can collaborate with vendors, the greater the impact for all parties.

In-Store Relations

The most important person in business is the consumer — and regardless of the opportunities social media offers, an in-person conversation is still the most powerful form of communication. There’s a deeply rooted desire in us as humans to want to have an intentional relationship. Knowing the consumer can seem to be a daunting task at times, but FFO has realized the greatest way to learn about customers and their experience level is by being intentional when they walk into the store. This can be accomplished by asking good questions. Asking questions without forethought is like shooting into a flock of birds without aiming — sometimes you hit and most of the time you miss.

Questions commonly asked by FFO sales associates include: “How long have you been hunting?” “What products do you primarily use?” “How has the hunting been for you?” “What did you learn to apply for next year?”

These questions might at first seem generic, but they help the consumer realize the associate’s desire is to help them — not just sell to them. With the answers to these questions, associates are then able to establish the field experience and the education of the consumer. You can’t serve customers efficiently without first connecting with them.

Devin Cranford, FFO apparel manager, informed, “The interaction with the consumer needs to be simple and the time needs to be utilized well. You want to expand on the important aspects with limited time for conversation but within the time, be patient. Ask questions that lead to connection.”

The next time a waterfowl customer walks through your door ready for the next season, consider how fruitful information can curate additional selling opportunities.

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