So what about the demise of the traditional fly shop?

I’m worried that there is no real solution to saving the “old school” style fly shop unless you happen to live next to a productive stream or a boat ramp that sits in a city where everyone that lives there is a fly fisherman…..and they don’t have internet! Fat chance, as they say.
In my opinion, some of the shops that went out of business missed the “internet boat” and just couldn’t make up the distance. If you don’t have an online store and the staff to maintain it and staff to fill orders you are at a disadvantage. This is all a very time consuming and expensive project for any shop but for a small shop it’s overwhelming. I don’t think that you can just sell rods and reels and flies anymore, you have to have clothing, art and gifts to make it. It also helps to have some sort of walk in traffic from tourists…everybody has and uncle or brother who fishes and needs a gift.
Somehow though, the “deep down at the core of our human emotions concepts of getting the best price no matter what” kind of thinking has to change. The thinking of fly shop customers has to evolve into one that’s about relationships. The angler has to appreciate and understand the value of being able to walk into a beautifully appointed fly shop that is clean and fully stocked with a knowledgeable smiling staff with free advice.
Of course the fly shop has to treat the customer right also, but the one thing the small business has to offer over the big box stores or the internet is the personnel association and the friendship of the owners and staff. This sounds corny but the fly shop needs to be like your family where you go to get advice, and sympathy, and love. Yes, this means some serious branding has to take place because making your customers love your brand is what creates loyalty. What is your brand and what is your “brand promise”?
So really, it’s on the shoulders of the fly shop to create a place so comfortable and easy to shop with all of the gear and goods that you need plus great customer service so good that the consumer doesn’t even think about going anyplace else.