How Do I Compete with Big Boxes?

How Do I Compete with Big Boxes?

February 06, 2020

Competing with box stores can be intimidating for an independent dealer. The last thing you want to hear is that a new mass merchant (big box) is moving in next door or even across town. Let’s see if it can be good or bad.

How do you compete with their selection and low prices? You don’t. Independent dealers are different from big box retailers. They are able to do things the big boys can’t. The following tips will help you set your store apart and ACTUALLY increase sales.

Customer service

Christie Lester of Nature’s Tackle Box in Hiram, GA knows better than anyone. Eight years ago, a box store moved into her shopping center, just five doors down. I specifically remember our conversation after she received the news. She and her husband David had all kinds of thoughts running through their minds. What were they going to do? Should we move or close our tackle shop completely? I am happy to say, Nature’s Tackle Box is doing better than ever. They’ve become highly specialized in what they do.

Christie said, “The perception is that a box store will sell everything cheaper. That’s not always the case. As a smaller store, you can offer more than they offer. Not only in product selection but also in knowledge and customer service.”

Know your competition

Get to know the people that work in the tackle department of your local big box. You’d be surprised how many of them are tournament fishermen. Introduce yourself and offer to help them. They’ll more than likely become a customer themselves and will send other customers your way. They may not have an item someone is looking for, but they’ll know where to send them. This little trick can pay huge dividends.


Box stores carry what appeals to the masses. You can use this to your advantage. Independent dealers can offer a much wider selection of styles and colors that are specific to their area. Another option is to carry a totally different selection of product. Take a pro shop or high-end, boutique approach. Carry the hard to find items. The more expensive items. The items that can’t be bought in a big box. Specifically, the one that may be close to your store. There’s plenty of small manufactures that make excellent products. These manufacturers may not be able to supply a national chain due to their size or pricing structure. A few good examples are:


  • Bullshad Swimbaits – premium, handmade, multi-joint, swimbaits that are made and tuned one at a time
  • Hog Farmer Bait Co – premium A-rigs, plastics, and more using high-end components
  • Triple Trout Swimbaits – another handmade, custom tuned swimbait manufacturer with a cult following
  • Huddleston - one of the original soft body swimbaits featuring life-like detail and exceptional paint jobs
  • Cashion Fishing Rods – mainly bass fishing rods made in North Carolina, plus lots of technique specific options


Response time

Many box stores set their planograms well in advance. A planogram is the map of product designated for each peg in their store. Once these are set, they’re locked in for the next year or so. Independent retailers do not have to follow such guidelines. They’re able to respond quickly to new trends or hot baits. Many times, with a simple phone call. This is a huge advantage.


Ben Koller from The Hook Up Outfitters in Peoria, AZ defines unique as saying, “I’m pretty sure we’ve got the largest Megabass selection in the world. Megabass buys stuff back from me. When we opened our new shop, Megabass came in and built a shop within our shop. People come from all over the world to shop with us.” Keller added, “When we built this store, our goal was to create a place where anglers could be hands on and experience tackle. I want them to touch, feel and demo everything. We’ve got a huge demo tank in the store where customers can test out rods, reels, and baits. If I could start over, I’d open my store right next to a big box. Years ago, big box equaled cheap. That use to mean the end of the little guy. Over the last 10-15 years, that’s shifted. They’re more expensive now due to flooring, multiple locations, fish tanks, and all the stuff. I’m in Japan 8-10 times a year staying on top of trends and staying ahead of the curve. Big box stores can’t do that. Our customers get to see and experience the latest and greatest here first.”

Community involvement

George Accord of Susquehanna Fishing Tackle in Columbia, PA said, “Our motto is what we like to call the Turtle Mentality. We keep our heads down and do our own thing. We do what we do the best and don’t worry about competition. We’ve created a lot of specialty events for different types of fishermen. Yes, we sell a lot of bass tackle, but we’ve also got a lot of customers that fish for catfish, panfish, or saltwater fish.”

I know of numerous independent dealers around the country that run their own tournament trails. This is an excellent way to stay involved in your local community and it helps you stay current. It also builds lasting relationships with your customers.

Competing with box stores doesn’t have to be a competition at all. You can differentiate yourself and become the expert in your field. That new box store in town may just be the boost you need.