From the Shop: Everyday is Blackflyday. (and what I’m thankful for)

I hope and imagine that most people who read this over the long weekend following Thanksgiving do so before or after an adventure in the outdoors.  I’m a fan of the #optoutside idea over the mark-down fueled spectacle is that is Black Friday.  But this cultural event has given me pause to think about my pricing structure, and Thanksgiving has given me reason to reflect on what I’m grateful for in my business life.

I’m happy to say that today, you can get the best deal on a new Blackfly Canoe.  It turns out to be the same deal you could have gotten on Wednesday, or you’ll be able to get in January.  I decided in the early days of Blackfly to keep prices consistent and avoid doing sales, mark-downs, or other discounts.  I did this because marking down the price of a boat means I have to inflate the price the rest of the time, and that doesn’t make sense to me.  It’s also why I don’t offer pro-deals or sell off demo boats very often (I’ve joked I could raise prices $100, paddle each boat once, and then sell it for $100 off).  I prefer to take the longer view: the boats will be here when you’re ready to buy, and you’ll know what the price will be.  Whether that’s a Tuesday in June or a Saturday in January or a Friday in November shouldn’t really matter, it shouldn’t be an impulse decision, driven by some form of “Fear Of Missing Out.”  (There are a handful of exceptions.  I donate two boats to American Whitewater each year for the silent auctions at Deerfield fest and Gauley fest.  This year I also donated a boat to Mill City Park for Winnipesaukee River days.  In the past I’ve done it at Cheat fest and Gatineau fest as well.  And I do discounts for fleet boats for schools and instructional programs).

If you look at the saga of Ron Johnson’s time as head of JC Penney, you can see it can actually be a pretty terrible sales strategy. That’s probably especially true in the paddlesports market where the “culture” is one that’s often stereotyped as, um… let’s say “value oriented.”  I don’t really agree with that stereotype, but what I do know is FOMO is a basic but powerful driver, and the thrill of the hunt is also strong motivation.  Perhaps we can trace it back to our prehistoric roots; the hunter who brought back the biggest saber-toothed rabbit had higher status in the tribe.  Perhaps the same things that drive us to seek out adventure also drive the need for the “hunt,” not for the biggest kill but the best deal…but I digress.

I’ve spent a fair bit of time this week pondering why I should stick with this model.  The best answer I can give is “because I believe what I’m offering is worth the price I’m asking.”  It’s expensive, but it’s a fair price, given the cost and nature of what I’m making.  If I was making a slightly higher resolution version of the last high-resolution-digital-whatever-it-is, and I needed to try to sell them to the mass market, it would probably make sense for me to set up my tent in the Black Friday Carnival.  But I’m not trying to make something for everyone, Blackfly is much, much smaller than that.  From Day 1, Blackfly was about doing something…different.  I’m making whitewater canoes for people who like to paddle canoes.  I’m constantly trying to get betting at making canoes for those people.  And those people are passionate about doing what they do, and are willing to put in the effort to try to understand what I’m trying to do and where I’m trying to go and they want to go along for the ride.  Those people aren’t the stereotypical cheap dirtbags.  They may not have the cash in their pocket for a shiny new canoe, and I understand that.  But from what I’ve seen, they’ll save up, or find a good used boat for now, and buy a new one later.

It’s sort of ironic to me that I’ve spent time this week thinking about Black Friday, something I don’t really care at all about, and out have that I’ve realized how grateful I am for the people who make this journey possible for me.  If you “get it,” if you to try to understand what goes into Blackfly and what I’m trying to do, if you take the time to read this blog and my random thoughts; I’m thankful for you.