After my first post I began thinking. The House of Hardy has always been there and I would really like to see the House of Hardy returned to what it once was. I have been a regular customer for Hardy rods and fly fishing accessories for as long as I can remember. As a young student and very eager dry fly fisherman I took the long journey on my bike from my home to the Hardy retailer in the capital to buy my first Hardy fly rod, took the better part of a day. The retailer had it put aside almost a year before for me to save up for it. When I returned home and was getting of the bike I accidentally got the tip in between the spokes on the back wheel on my bike and broke the tip 10 cm from the top. This was in the days before rod tubes and any kind of warranty, no one had dreamed up the nightmare of lifetime unconditional warranty. I got on my bike and went back into the shop. The shop was a very special kind of shop, the men behind the counter all wore suits and black ties and all the items was displayed in glass counters and glass cabinets, and whether you where in the shop for a few hooks and a couple of feathers, you received the same attention and exquisite service and interest as the grown up fellow that was in the shop for a full Hardy kit. Now I stood there 13 years and sweaty from the long ride with tears in my eyes asking for them to send the rod back for a possible repair. The kind man behind the counter looked at me with great sympathy and told me he would contact Hardy to see what could be done. Imagine my joy and relief when the man after a good while returned after a talk with Hardy and told me they would give me a new rod free of any charge. The rod was carried home like it was made of the most brittle of crystal glass and not just glass fiber and I still have that rod more than 40 years later.
I tell you this story to give you an idea of just how coveted the Hardy products actually was and what kind of company they used to be, this was when to company was still in the ownership of the Hardy family. The creed of the Hardy family was always to design/build their rods up to the best of quality, never down to a price. The consequence of this creed was that Hardy gear was expensive compared to other brands, but the quality of their gear always made the price right, simply because their gear was so much better than the lower priced gear. To break a Hardy rod could be compared to breaking the rear axle on a Rolls Royce, it simply did not happen from regular use.
As the Hardy Company was sold in 67 new things began to happen. Lots of new products were produced many of them to a quality standard never before seen in Hardy products. Many companies, primarily from USA, now made gear that could be compared in quality and price to the Hardy gear. New series of rods came and went with a frequency never seen before, some of them very far from the level of quality that used to be the norm of Hardy. The new owners clearly had a marketing strategy that parted from the creed of the Hardy family. They clearly tried to capitalize on the good name of Hardy by developing different products in different levels of quality and the association of the Hardy name and the best quality money could buy, became increasingly difficult to maintain in the minds of their customers. Used to be that if you bought Hardy you were accustomed to one quality - the best, now for the first time the customers experienced that the name of Hardy was no longer associated with the best quality money could buy. It took some time getting used to, but their top of the range products where still the best quality.
Enter the Hardy Angel 1 series of very expensive rods that broke, for no apparent reason, they later rectified that monumental mistake with the Angel 2 series that are some of the best rods ever made. The outsourcing of most of their reel production to Asia was another low point in their history. In that sense the Hardy was no different than many other companies of that period, where outsourcing became a buzzword in European manufacturing, the pendulum is now beginning to swing the other way and customers are willingly paying a little more for a locally produced product, the history of the product has again become a selling point. Most of the faithful customers didn’t like the way the new owners took the company and the quality and price of the USA made gear was now such that the Hardy prices could no longer be justified.
The company clearly struggled which wore down on the Hardy reputation and the company did a last pitch with the new silica technology and now tried to instill the feeling that everything was back to normal by using the “Made in Alnwick” as a selling point, but I think it was too late. Now if the new owners are smart they stop producing the many different levels of quality and return to the old creed of the Hardy family and start building products to the best of quality and never down to a price, preferably in Alnwick. The new owner, which as I understand, has great insight into the fishing gear industry, has a monumental task ahead of them. As I understand the new owners is primarily paying for the House of Hardy name and to protect their investment they need to restore the name of Hardy to what it was, a synonym of the best of quality money could buy. To do that they need to focus on what was the reasons that made the Hardy name respected in the first place and concentrate on the small, but increasingly lucrative market of customers that are willing to pay for the best quality and leave the inferior quality production to those that clearly do that so much better. The House of Hardy could very well be their new top of the line quality brand.
As should be abundantly clear and very obviously, I’m clearly biased and the Hardy rods make up a good percentage of my gear collection. I for one would welcome a takeover that would try to restore the venerable House of Hardy to what it once was; The Company that build/designed rods and gear up to a quality, never down to a price.