Eye-opening ICAST: priceless on a number of levels
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South African businessman Craig Gutteridge made his first trip to ICAST – the world’s largest fishing tackle trade show – in 2019. Gutteridge is the Johannesburg-based director of Rutherford Marine, the exclusive distributor of Mercury outdoor and inboard engines and accessories in South Africa and the sub-Sahara region.
According to him, to say that the 20.5-hour, 8,157-mile (13,129km) journey to Florida was worthwhile is an understatement.
He told Angling International: “ICAST was a real eye-opener. From a business point-of-view, it was a priceless experience on a number of levels. Our intention was to go there and make contact with the big-ticket brands, but we achieved so much more during a very busy three days.”
“ICAST presented us with the chance to meet representatives of all the major brands. Most already have distribution in South Africa, but making contact with them was an opportunity to get ourselves in front of them, should their sales structures change.”
Craig added that with a rise in its accessories sales, which now account for half its revenue, ICAST gave the company a chance to pick up new brands to add to its portfolio. “Without physically attending you have no way of knowing what new products are out there and how they can help your business.”
He added: “A large percentage of our engines go into the recreational fishing industry and are on sale in tackle stores and that gives us an opportunity to sell retailers other fishing-related products.
“The show provided us with plenty of food for thought and was a great learning curve as we found out who we needed to be talking to and what companies have to offer. You cannot learn that information through email and phone calls. You need to go there and be talking to the right people.”
Gutteridge added that meeting with the many bass fishing pros who attended the show also gave him a feel for that sector of industry in the US and the opportunity to learn first-hand how to enter the buoyant market.
“Bass is a major part of the fishing scene in South Africa so it was interesting to compare the two sectors and evaluate whether we could learn anything from the way it operates and vice versa.
“From the largest blue riband brands to the smaller, niche market manufacturers, the networking opportunities at ICAST are immense.
“Our first ICAST presented us with a mountain of opportunities and we are excited about returning to Florida next year and building on those foundations. We learned so much.”