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RBFF “Mystery Shopper” Study Provides Customer Experience Insights for the Boating and Fishing Industry

Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation

The Retail Customer Experience Assessment, also known as the "Mystery Shopper" Study, reveals boating retail stores score an average 75 percent satisfaction rate for overall customer experience, and fishing retail stores score an average 61 percent satisfaction rate for overall customer experience. Both score lower than the average 77 percent for the general retail industry1 and 80 percent for retail specialty stores1. The Mystery Shopper Study was conducted to assess the current retail environment for beginning, occasional and experienced boaters and anglers, and to identify opportunities for improvement in customer service and fishing license sales.

"It’s critical for customers to have a positive experience to keep them engaged in boating and fishing, and coming back to the sport year after year," said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. "This study should help boating and fishing retailers and state agencies alike see the incredible potential to improve the retail experience. That can go a long way in retaining customers in boating and fishing, and sustaining our aquatic natural resources for future generations."

RBFF’s Mystery Shopper Study targeted Big Box, Sporting Goods, Outdoor Specialty and Family-Owned fishing stores, along with Chain and Family-Owned boat retailers in the Houston, Dallas, Orlando, Tampa and Miami markets. Stores were judged on first impressions, greetings, effective assessment of the shopper’s needs, the overall sales process, closing the sale, product presentation and overall impressions. Shoppers represented all experience levels and consisted of three main customer groups: single females, Hispanics and traditional ‘non-Hispanic’ families.


Fishing Study -
There was no outstanding performer in overall experience ratings. When looking at store type, Outdoor Specialty (66 percent) outperformed the next highest category, Sporting Goods (64 percent) by only two percentage points. Family-Owned came in third at 63 percent, followed by Big Box at 52 percent.
Boating Study –
There was no outstanding performer in overall experience ratings. When looking at store type, Boating Chain (77 percent) outperformed Family Owned (73 percent) by 4 percentage points.
Fishing Licenses –
Regardless of skill level, customers are not being asked if they have a fishing license. Of those who indicated they were new to fishing, 20 percent said the sales person asked if they had purchased their fishing license yet. Of those who indicated they were an experienced angler, only 8 percent said the sales person asked if they had purchased their fishing license yet.
"As an industry, we all have a responsibility, state agency, manufacturer, and retailer alike, to create customer experiences that encourage repeat business and a passion for the sport," said Market Viewpoint President Angela Megasko. "The results of the study we conducted on behalf of RBFF, clearly show the opportunities that exist in the retail environment that will contribute to the overall experience of today’s angler, new and experienced alike."

The Mystery Shopper Study identifies general recommendations to guide RBFF and its stakeholders in improving the overall retail customer experience. The full study is available online in the Take Me Fishing Resource Center.


1 American Customer Satisfaction Index

About the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF)
RBFF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating, thereby protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic natural resources. RBFF developed the award-winning Take Me Fishing™ campaign to create awareness around boating, fishing and conservation, and educate people about the benefits of participation. Take Me Fishing helps boaters and anglers of all ages and experience levels learn, plan and equip for a day on the water. The campaign website,, and its new Spanish-language counterpart,, feature how-to videos, information on how to get a fishing license and boat registration, and an interactive state-by-state map that allows visitors to find local boating and fishing spots.

For further information: Contact: Stephanie Vatalaro, 703-778-5156,