“The first year of Bajio has been a wild ride…”

A little over a year ago Bajio sunglasses revealed itself to the world. TTW editor John Hunter sat down with industry stalwart, founder and CEO Al Perkinson at ICAST 2022 to find out how it has been going and why it’s good to be different.


TTW: Firstly Al, thanks for taking time out to chat. How has the past year or so been for you?

Al Perkinson: I think you could best describe it as a wild ride. We have opened a good number of key accounts and are way ahead of initial projections. But there have been some challenges too, hence me using the term ‘wild ride’!


TTW: What has surprised you most about the reaction to the brand’s launch? It’s a competitive marketplace to get involved in.

AP: The retailers have been super welcoming and we felt there was an opportunity there, given what was happening with some of the other competitors. We were hearing some had dropped the ball with regards to customer service and product quality.

But we didn’t really realise how strongly retailers felt all of that and how adamant they were that they wanted a new option so the speed at which we have signed up dealers has been surprising. We had to limit the number we were signing.

Internationally, on pretty much every continent, people have been calling and asking us to come in – some well-placed ads and articles certainly helped.

Obviously, the supply chain issues were something we never expected – even though we manufacture in the USA, we bring in some parts from elsewhere. The container ship costs have risen hugely but we haven’t passed those costs on.

Fortunately, we have not had any significant delays either.

Distribution has been built so now it’s all about driving traffic into the retailers.


TTW: You’re only a year old and already you are launching more glasses, apparel and more. This is not normal behaviour, surely?

AP: The thing is, the retailers want us to replace the competitors so to do that we have to have everything that they have offered. We have launched some items much faster than we planned to and we have had to expand our product line more quickly – adding apparel, hats, T-shirts for example.

Our displays seem to work well. Everything has had to come out all at once – and fully formed!


TTW: I recall when we did the launch articles for you, the impression was you were going to start slowly and grow organically but that just hasn’t happened…

AP: We work 24/7 and have done for three years, so I’m ready for a vacation! At least we get to fish quite a bit!


TTW: I get the impression you have never done things conventionally. When you look, for example, at your ICAST booth, we’ve got pinball machines, graffiti and tattoo artists. We know what a sunglasses booth usually looks like but I never know what I’m going to get when I walk onto a Bajio stand.

AP: I don’t where this stuff comes from… I think the sunglass category has got super stale and I feel some of that entrepreneurial creativity and spirit gets squashed out when corporates come in. I think it’s important for the fishing industry to have new brands that are really driving innovation and creativity.

The millennials and Gen-Z are different and they look at the world differently. The sunglass category has had a bunch of ‘Baby Boomer‘ brands that talk to them exclusively and I feel they are missing out on the next generation who have to be talked to differently. As an industry if we don’t understand and address that, we are going to die, There’s too many other options out there for these kids and we need to find ways to get these new guys in.

It’s a risky business and there will be failures but I believe you learn a lot more from failures than you do from your successes. We all need to embrace creativity and embrace risk.

It could all end badly or it could all end spectacularly. That’s the role of new brands – to shake things up a little.

TTW: Where do you see the industry going in the next couple of years? We have seen angler numbers grow massively but they seem to be dropping back in 2022.

AP: I do think the industry overall has benefitted from Covid. Consumer demand has certainly grown. There’s a lot of new people looking at the sport but they have different needs and expectations so we need to meet these or they will look somewhere else.

As you walk around ICAST you hear this talk about ‘new technology’ but that’s ‘Baby Boomer’ speak. These newcomers don’t care about that, they want simplicity and experience. If you go on a trip with a bunch of 20-year-olds we hardly ever hear anyone talk about the rod or reel they are using – they aren’t obsessed with having the latest and greatest, it’s all about the experience. They would rather spend $300 on a rod and $700 on a plane ticket to Mexico than $1,000 on a rod. It’s a choice about how they want to use their resources.

Creativity is the last ‘ownable’ point of difference. You can copy technology but you can’t do that with creativity.


TTW: You have just partnered with FlyFish Europe. That’s a big step.

AP: I have worked with Jarle Kristansen (managing director of FlyFish Europe) When I was at Simms and his team do an amazing job. We weren’t sure we were ready to take that step quite yet but because it was him and that company we felt like we could do that sooner than we had planned. We did the deal back at IFTD in March because they felt we were the future!