Fall Orvis Days highlights outdoor fun

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MANCHESTER >> Inside the Orvis flagship store in Manchester Center on Saturday, visitors, and some of their dogs, shopped, sipped hot cider in front of the fireplace and had a chance to learn about outdoor sports.

The store was a beehive of activity on Saturday for the outdoor gear manufacturer and retailer's annual fall outing day.

Jim Clune of Shaftsbury, who has been tying lures for more than 50 of his 66 years, was creating miniature works of art with thread and fibers from various feathers. Having turned out about a dozen flies, he was trying what he called an experiment — a recipe including pheasant tail fiber, gold wire and bright orange thread.

The orange thread "gives it a glow you won't get with brown thread," he said of the lure. "I'm sure it will catch fish. The question is just how many."

Outside, adults were busy practicing their fly fishing casts, the lines whipping through the air and into the pond, while children fed the trout from the shore.

On the lawn between the store and the fly rod factory, Alec Sparks of Snowbound Kennels in Addison had the attention of grown-ups and children alike as he put his two-year-old English pointer Hawk through his paces.

Hawk responded smartly to Sparks' whistle, turning left and right on command as he sought out his quarry. When he spied the ring-necked pheasant Sparks had turned loose for the occasion, Hawk froze like a lawn statue with his tail straight out and his front left paw hovering in mid-stride, (The pheasant later flew off unharmed.)

This year's celebration came days after a major development in the outdoor sporting equipment and lifestyle retail market — Bass Pro Shops' $5.5 billion acquisition of Cabela's. The value of Cabela's store credit card business was a major driver in Bass Pro's decision to make the deal, according to media reports.

While Bass Pro and Cabela's are giants in the outdoor gear retail business, they're in a different market segment than Orvis, explained Dave Finnegan, the company's vice president of customer experience. Stores such as Cabela's and Bass Pro are "big box" retailers, Orvis is positioned as a high-end outfitter specializing in fly fishing — and educating its customers through outreach events like Fall Orvis Days and with free fly fishing instruction with world-class staff such as Pete Kutzer, who was teaching on Saturday.

"We find [the acquisition] interesting so we'll watch what happens, but it doesn't quite overlap with our same demographic," Finnegan said. "So we don't anticipate that it will have much of an impact for us."

If anything, the company, like many retailers, is more concerned about how the results of the election will impact consumer confidence heading into the holiday shopping season, Finnegan said.

"In the fourth quarter, we think the election will have some impact on consumer sentiment, so we'll see how much," Finnegan said. "I think there's a lot of uncertainty around the election, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out in retail in general."


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