Industry upbeat regarding ICAST 2010

Despite the recession being officially over, the country is still mired in a jobless recovery where companies refuse to spend money, jobs are scarce and consumers seemingly have their pocketbooks welded shut. As if that wasn't enough, a broken pipe is still spewing tens of thousands of gallons of oil each day into the Gulf of Mexico, and in the process causing one of the greatest ecological disasters in the country's history.

With all of the negatives for people to be concerned about, the natural expectation is that the folks attending the 2010 International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) would be in a down mood, right?

Not so.

Quite the contrary, in fact. While everyone acknowledged having to contend with more challenges than usual this year, they all shared one common sentiment: Missing ICAST is not an option.

"I always have high anticipation going into ICAST," says John Kushnerick, marketing director for Zebco Brands. "It is important to see what new products, innovations and trends are occurring across the industry. However, this year I am coming with a more somber mood. The world has changed since 5 years ago. Consumers, customers, and marketers have seen a shift in spending patterns, inventory levels, and investment spending levels. Better management of your personal or corporate balance sheet is healthy. We all are learning to do more with less."

The story of our industry seems to change by the day. Some companies say sales are up; others wonder how long the lights can stay on if consumers don't start buying.

As the sportfishing industry's biggest show, ICAST is seen as a can't-miss event, the place where companies bring their brightest ideas — innovative products — to light. These products generate buzz with media members and tackle stores that will continue for months. This year, however, a different sort of buzz will also be in play as people undoubtedly talk about the companies not at ICAST.

Early reports are that several well-known businesses have chosen not to exhibit this year, a decision many attribute to financial hardship.

Whatever the reason for the absences, the show will go on, since many companies are choosing to remain upbeat in these challenging times.

"Many tackle companies, and dealers, too, are having their best sales year in a long time," says Gary Dollahon, co-owner of Dollahon PR. "I personally think some of that can be attributed to the weak economy and people turning to fishing as an escape. Companies who remain active in introducing new products and aggressively promoting them will stand out from the pack this year. I know for a fact that many of our industry friends are approaching ICAST with a positive attitude and intend to make this a good show. I'm confident that the exhibitors and attendees who enter the doors of ICAST 2010 in this manner will leave Vegas feeling optimistic about the new tackle year."

Surprisingly, everyone we talked to has expressed confidence that the show will be as successful as those of the past. At the very least, the current state of world affairs has done nothing to dampen the competitive spirits of those attending the show.

When asked how she'll judge the success of this show against that of previous shows, Liza Jones, head of PR for Costa Del Mar, immediately focused on the event's New Products Showcase, which awards top prizes by category for new products at ICAST.

"If Costa's new Jose sunglass style with 580P lenses wins the New Product Showcase award [for eyewear], I will consider it a success," says a half-joking Jones, president of Full Circle Public Relations.

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