The post-lockdown angling market is continuing to thrive right across the board
ANGLING’S rising popularity has continued in the first half of 2021, and all signs point to another remarkable year for our sport.
Manufacturers and tackle outlets are still struggling to keep up with the insatiable demand for products, and the surge in interest in fishing is also benefiting venues and coaches. Many fisheries are laying on extra tutorial sessions to cater for the influx of newcomers and ‘returners’ alike.
LICENCE SALES STILL BUOYANT
One of the most reliable indicators of the rising popularity of angling is to look at rod licence sales. When the first national lockdown was lifted in early May 2020, no fewer than 335,000 licences were sold in the following six weeks – a massive increase on the previous year. Latest figures from the Environment Agency show that demand has continued to follow an upward curve. During April and May 2021, just over 373,500 individual fishing licences were purchased.
A spokesman for the EA revealed that sales are expected to continue to rise as we head into summer, when many will be ‘staycationing’ rather than venturing abroad. They said:
“Now that the new coarse fishing season has started and the weather is improving, we anticipate more people taking to the riverbanks, as they did last year.”
TACKLE DEMAND ‘OFF THE SCALE’
More anglers mean more fishing kit, and it’s no secret that the fishing tackle market has enjoyed a remarkable 12 months, with most manufacturers and retailers struggling to cope with the glut of orders.
Products across the board have been popular, but there has been a particular clamour for kit aimed at newcomers.
Mat Woods, brand manager at Korum, told us:
“Demand is right off the scale for Korum equipment. The response to the new Phase 1 range of rods and reels, aimed at making it easy for those getting into fishing or coming back to the sport, has far exceeded our expectations. We’ll struggle to keep up with the demand, but we’re doing everything in our power to keep these affordable items on the shelves.”
One company struggling to keep products from Korum and other manufacturers on the shelves is Angling Direct, the country’s biggest chain of tackle shops. Its CEO, Andy Torrance, told Angling Times that he didn’t envisage the demand slowing any time soon
“Our stores and websites have been inundated as ever more people are becoming aware of the enjoyment and clear benefits of angling to our health and wellbeing,” he said.
“This, and lockdown, has inspired not just lapsed anglers, but thousands of beginners of all ages to get out fishing. So far, we’ve given away more than 14,000 free starter kits to under-16s, and we have more than 80 qualified angling coaches in our stores. They’re working hard, not just to support new starters, but also to help experienced anglers up their game.
“All the signs are that this upsurge is here to stay, and we expect another period of record-breaking growth this year.”
ON THE HIGH STREET
It’s not just tackle shops that have been inundated with orders. The scramble for equipment has also translated to the high street. Even Argos has got in on the action. The catalogue company – which is now owned by Sainsbury’s – reported a rise of around 300 per cent in sales of fishing tackle in the year to the end of March 2021, with many of the orders relating to beginner and junior fishing kit.
It’s been a similar story at international sports equipment retailer Decathlon, whose UK Fishing Commercial Leader, Ramona Cojocaru, said:
“We have noticed a huge upsurge in interest. The number of customers visiting our website to look at fishing products has increased by 5,476 per cent since the start of 2021, while we have recorded record turnover progression of 224 per cent in store and online since the start of April on top of a booming 2020 season.
“The most sought-after products are beginners’ fishing kits, experiencing sales progression from 400 per cent to 900 per cent. We know people are looking to get outside, try new things and connect with nature. Fishing is a great way to do that, and we hope we can encourage more people to discover the joys of fishing.”
Even more encouraging for future of angling is the growing diversity of those buying tackle. Angling has always been viewed as a male-dominated sport, yet according to some retailers, an increasing proportion of kit is being snapped up by budding female anglers.
This was underlined by Jim McNamara, Buying Director for GO Outdoors, who said:
“We’ve seen increased demand both in store and online for fishing equipment, and it’s a trend we’re expecting to continue.
“It was great to learn that almost one in five of our customers over the past year has been female. We hope to see female participation continue to rise, given the relaxing nature of the activity and how it allows us to really enjoy the freedom the outdoors brings.”
This trend has also been apparent in the coaching and guiding market, with many more juniors and women seeking the opportunity to learn their craft or brush up on their existing skills.
Angling Times columnist Dom Garnett, who is also a qualified Angling Trust coach, told us:
“Not only is demand for fishing lessons higher than ever, but the proportion of families and younger anglers has hugely increased. My work used to be perhaps 80 per cent fly fishing lessons for adults. These days around half of all bookings are coarse fishing lessons for families with kids.
“It’s great to see, and I’m also teaching almost as many girls as boys. I had wondered if summer 2020 was just a freak event, but demand has remained very high.”