TackleDirect, now in EHT, lures customers with service, expertise

Attention: open in a new window. PrintE-mail

Patrick Gill, third-generation fisherman, overlooks the 8,000-square-foot Tackle Direct retail store, new in Egg Harbor Township. An additional 16,000 square feet hold a warehouse, call center and offices.
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – In 1997, at the dawn of the Internet era, father and son business partners Tom and Patrick Gill registered the domain name of their Ocean City store, “Tackle Direct,” dubbing it the “world’s premier fishing outfitter.”

In 2011, that name seems prophetic.

On a recent morning at the company’s new Tilton Road location, Patrick Gill checked on packages destined for Singapore, Hungary, the U.K., Norway, a U.S. military base, and Australia.

Tackle Direct, No. 566 on the list of Top 1,000 Internet retailers, ships to 200 countries, and is “one of the fastest growing accounts for UPS in South Jersey,” Gill said.

Not bad for a onetime bait-and-tackle shop.

For years, the shop at the foot of the Route 52 causeway bridge was an Ocean City fixture. When the state Department of Transportation undertook its massive replacement of the Route 52 causeway bridge, it seized the property, and Tackle Direct started looking for new digs. An associated business, Island Beach Gear, remains on Ninth Street.

The timing of the move proved beneficial, as the company was growing beyond its old home base. After a few years on the bay in Somers Point, Tackle Direct moved to the sprawling 24,000-square-foot space once occupied by Staples (next to Produce Junction) in Egg Harbor Township. Though construction and painting continues, the store officially opened on Black Friday, Nov. 25.

The Gills have completely overhauled the interior, adding a call center, mezzanine level with offices, web development department, warehouse, loading dock and even a mini-version of Island Beach Gear, selling beach carts and chairs, apparel, and other merchandise for vacationers.

Though Tackle Direct is essentially a fishing supply depot, the retail space is downright opulent, with deep navy walls, mahogany counters and doors, and wall to wall carpet. Most customers will never see the store, however; Tackle Direct now does 85 percent of its sales online.

Gill attributes the growth to a good product line, “We don’t sell junk”; knowledgeable salespeople (most are anglers themselves); and super-speedy customer service.

“If an order comes in at 3 or 4 in the afternoon and we have it in stock, it usually goes out the same day,” he said. Favorable international shipping rates help, he said. “With the weakness of the U.S. dollar and currency exchange, there are no customs or duty” to some countries; an Aussie angler can get his new rod or reel in two days flat for the same price he might pay at home. As a result, Australia is the company’s top overseas market; in the U.S., it’s Florida.

A staff of fishing enthusiasts “is one way to differentiate ourselves from the catalog companies, where people are reading from teleprompters,” Gill said. Sales associate Erik McMaster of Ocean City, an avid fisherman, said his recreational interest “sure helps on the job.

“Everybody here is in touch with it,” McMaster said. “If they’re not fishing every day, they all have a background that intertwines with it.”

Gill said he hopes the presence of Tackle Direct will have a positive impact on other stores in the shopping center, which has seen a number of vacancies. Staples closed in 2009, and the store was empty for several years. The company’s two dozen employees “are always going to AC Subs or the Chinese place or the Tilton Inn,” Gill said. “I think people are excited about having us here.”

Tackle Direct is also looking to hire several more staff members.

The Gills expect to realize lots of walk-in traffic due to the busy Tilton Road location. And thanks to the internet, what may have once been a seasonal business is now year-round.

“We certainly see some seasonal peaks in summer,” said Gill, “but we’re fortunate that somewhere in the country and the world, someone is always fishing.”

Tackle Direct sells hundreds of brands of tackle and fishing gear for saltwater, freshwater and fly fishing. For information, see www.tackledirect.com. 

blog comments powered by Disqus