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Product Awareness Fishing - Family Affair

George and Ron Voukolos aren’t exactly household names, unless you live in Darwin and go fishing. Fishing and Outdoor World isn’t a big store in terms of floor space, but it is wall-to-wall tackle, with a significant gun section. And there is an ambience that comes in tackle stores jam packed with tackle. Walk into the shop on any day of the week, and there will be anglers. It’s like a gathering of the clans. An anglers' gabfest. Anglers come here for knowledge, for tackle, and most of all, helpful information. Everyone it seems wants to talk to George or his son Ron. But there are other equally competent anglers who work at the store, people like Matty West, who George rates as the best reel mechanic in Australia. The history of Fishing and Outdoor World goes back to May 1972 when George and Col Stringer formed a partnership and opened the store. That year George was working in a sporting goods store, and Col was working in an opposition sports store across the street. Even though the two men were in retail competition, it didn’t stop them fishing together. George explained the problem for the pair was time; it seemed they could never get time off to spend on the water together, so they decided to start up their own business. “Darwin didn’t have a dedicated fishing tackle store in those days, so Col and I took advantage of the opportunity,” George explained. Col left the business in 1978. Partnerships start well, but it often happens that one of the partners wants out to follow other career directions. Erskine’s Tackle in Cairns grew out of a partnership between famed game boat skipper, George Bransford, and tackle guru, Jack Erskine. When George Bransford decided it was time to move on, Jack took over the business. In Melbourne, Jim Allen started out in the tackle business in partnership with Bob Roles in 1967. Roles and Allen went the way of many partnerships and failed. Jim went it alone and started up the Compleat Angler stores. As for George, 42 years later and in his early sixties, he has beaten off all comers and the Cavenagh Street store is angler central in down town Darwin. As well as the Darwin premises, George has owned tackle stores at Katherine and Casuarina, but sold them. Even though he still spends time talking to customers and serving, George said Ronald handles most of the business these days: “He’s been working in the shop since he was seven years old, and knows the business inside and out. “Ronald left school in Year 12, and spent six months at university studying accounting. My father-in-law used to run the books, and when he retired Ron left uni and took over.” The father-son tackle store is not unusual, and there are many examples right around the country of similar partnerships that have proven successful. George has an unassuming manner, but deep down there is a competitive streak. How else do you explain how, in between running a business, George found the time to be an all round sportsman, playing competitive squash, tennis, soccer, cricket, 10-Pin bowling and A-Grade basketball. “Life has been one big game,” George said. And Ronald has followed in his father’s footsteps. A former member of the Australian 10 Pin bowling team, he has been the highest-rated team bowler in Australia. The store’s lure range is impressive, not surprising given George’s long history of association with some of Australia’s most innovative lure makers. George is something of a legend among anglers, but few readers would know that he was responsible for introducing Nilsmaster and Vibrotail lures to Australian anglers. There are local lure makers as well, people like Chris Hurt who has been making barra and mackerel lures exclusively for Fishing and Outdoor World for more than 35 years. And master lure maker Rob Gaden sought George’s advice during the design stages of his lures. George brought Rob Gaden and John Millyard together when Rob designed the Classic lure. “It’s still the number one barra lure in the country,” George said. Fishing and Outdoor World has a long association with Shimano fishing tackle. George said that, when John Dunphy started Shimano Tackle in Australia, he was one of his early customers. John sold his share of Shimano, but the store continues that long association, and is one of the tackle giant’s biggest individual Australian accounts, and maintains its position as a major service centre for Shimano reels. During the life of the store, there have been highs and lows, and George has withstood storm, tempest and economic challenges. Cyclone Tracy devastated Darwin in 1974, and fishing trends are a moving fast. And you can add to this the introduction of ever-more challenging firearms regulations. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing many family tackle store businesses is the emergence of major discount tackle and outdoors stores. George has had to overcome the economic pressures that these stores can apply. He credits the support he received from Shimano about 10 years ago, for saving his business. Then Shimano boss Dunphy is famously loyal to his friends, and those who supported him. When A-mart moved into Darwin and started a discount campaign to attract customers, Shimano sold product to George at a price that allowed him to compete, and stay in business. As for the store, you name the tackle and chances are you will find it. Fishing and Outdoor World is wall-to-wall fishing with iconic brands including Shimano, ABU and Jarvis Walker. And while the wall stock might change with trends, some things never change. Visit the store and chances are you will find George in deep conversation with an angler, or behind the counter serving, just as he has done for more than 42 years.


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