Fishing Lines: Supermarkets get their tackle out

Tesco have come up with a brilliant ploy to sell more baked beans, ice cream, cheap pizzas and instant meals in their 960 stores. They are opening a fishing section.

Actually, that's not quite accurate. They are dipping a corporate toe in the water by offering a limited range at 70 Tesco Extra stores from Monday. They will sell tackle until August, and then decide whether it is another step in Tesco's plan for world domination or a waste of space.

But the company are not one to put half their annual profits (£2 billion and rising) on a pair of jacks. Behind this seemingly innocent move to supply cheap tackle to the nation's fishermen lurks a fiendish marketing scheme, mark my words.

The bare facts are that if they sell a limited range from next week. This includes 10 floats for £4.77, a catapult for £2.96, three spools of line for £2.87 and an umbrella for £12.97. The most expensive individual item is a seat box for £14.87. Freshwater fishing sets (rod, reel, line and a few accessories) cost £16.97, and a similar junior set is a mere £10.97.

Tesco claim they are targeting the extra 200,000 people that the Environment Agency say will start fishing over the next decade. But once Tesco realise they can grab a slice of the existing £2.75bn market too, they are sure to expand their range. This frightens the life out of tackle shops, who fear Tesco's vast buying power will undercut them and drive them out of business.

On the other hand, Tesco are not the first (though they claim to be) supermarket chain to sell fishing tackle. Lidl already offer it, and in the US, the giant Wal-Mart chain offer a huge range.

Personally, I don't think fishing shops have much to fear. After all, I can't see Tesco offering worms or different-coloured maggots - not within several miles of the fresh-food counters, anyway. But they don't need to offer creepy-crawlies to boost their sales. All they need is a range of tackle, a very big store and their existing staff.

I predict that a year from now, if you stroll into a Tesco store at any time of the day or night, you will find dozens of overweight men, generally in camo gear covered with badges, looking increasingly desperate and carrying dozens of things they don't want.

Fishing, you see, has its own strange language. Chat to the average angler and he knows precisely what you're talking about if you ramble on about quiver tips, breakaway leads, boilies, winders and bivvies. But would the average shop assistant?

Can you imagine what would happen if you asked for size 12s? You'd get directed to the shoe department rather than the hook section. A bite indicator? You'd be hauled along to the pharmacy area. Floats? You would find yourself looking at swimming aids in the baby section. And goodness knows what response you would get if you said you wanted a riddle, or asked to see a selection of wagglers.

The bottom line is that you can see hundreds of fishermen who just wanted a few plugs walking out with a new bathroom suite. And the weekly shopping too.

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