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Simms CEO: sales have been ‘off the charts’ but we need to educate newcomers


Simms Fishing Products CEO Casey Sheahan has talked about the highs and lows of COVID ‘craziness’ and revealed that his company may need to open a new facility.

Sheahan, who succeeded KC Walsh as CEO five years ago, said that last March the Montana company believed it would be 30% down at the end of 2020, only to finish the year with record sales.

“After a couple of rough months sales went off the charts and we have maintained that for ten months,” he told SGM Media. “Products for newcomers have been flying off the shelves. Our CX line (of clothing) is doing well and our wader and outerwear business is up 50% to 70%, as is our new Flyweight range.

“I think it’s the COVID effect of people seeing fly fishing as a socially distanced sport that’s safe and outdoors. You’re not going into a bar or bowling alley.”

However, a two-month shutdown early in the year, combined with increased demand, has had an inevitable impact on Simms’s inventory. “We’re scrambling to get it all done; it’s tough to keep up,” said Sheahan.

The rising cost of living in Bozeman has also been a factor, explains the former Patagonia CEO, creating a challenge for employees. ‘It might be that we need to open a new facility, but maybe in a less expensive town, like Great Falls, Livingston, Billings or somewhere else. We’re still exploring options.”

Sheahan joins a number of other industry figures in sounding a warning about the participation boom in fly fishing, referring to an article in the New York Times called ‘Pandemic Crowds Bring Rivergeddon to Montana’s Rivers.’

“That captured it for me. We need to take care of and respect this environment, or people will be turned off. We need to welcome newcomers, but spread the message of how to take care of the resource. One pet peeve of mine is people holding fish out of the water for an Instagram post. That stresses the fish. We need to tone it down and keep the fish in the water.

“I’m concerned about the overuse of the resource, though it’s hard to tell people not to come to enjoy the sport when we’re benefiting from it financially. But this summer, I think there’s going to be a big group of people like they’re shot out of a cannon coming to our nation’s rivers.”

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