Before I really get down to these texts I should first point out where I stand firmly. The Koi dealers all around the world are, with a few exceptions, the biggest Koi fanatics you will find anywhere – they are hooked on Koi just like me and just as stupid as I have always been!
However there’s an enormous chasm between ‘what it was before’ and ‘how it is now’.
No question, Waddy was extremely lucky in deciding to become a Koi dealer when he did. It wasn’t planned in advance, it just happened. The market for Koi in the UK reached truly remarkable levels between the early 1980’s and the late 1990’s and Waddy just happened to be there all the way through. The incredible sales produced back then allowed for endless visits to Japan in order to learn and learn at a time when sterling actually meant something. The overheads in running Waddy’s business throughout all those times were laughable because for every day the overheads presented themselves, the income generated in that same day was more than 50 fold so everything became relative and large amounts of money were just commonplace. Mistakes and howlers could be made and paid for without really feeling the effect of them for more than a few days. Had Waddy’s intentions been to make a rapid pile and walk away he could have done that by ’97 but it was the day-to-day involvement and excitement that continued to stoke the fire inside.
Of course those days are long gone, for some years now the UK Koi business has been decimated and the few left standing know full well that every penny counts and even one mistake made now can be disastrous. There are few Koi outlets around now that can meet the costs of legitimate business premises and all that surrounds these buildings. Some major Koi outlets have diversified to other ventures such as garden centres; pets; other ornamental fish and even goods that have nothing at all to do with being a Koi dealer. Many others have simply closed their doors for good.
It was in 2003 I first felt that the actual ‘demand’ for Koi was beginning to reduce slightly, I mentioned this to a few others but no one really seemed to be concerned. By 2005 I knew I was absolutely correct and that was the BIG problem – lack of demand!
Since then we can all throw in words such as ‘world recession’; ‘increased utility costs’; ‘increased motoring costs’; ‘dismally bad exchange rates’ and the likes and these all do play a ‘part’.
However, as far as the UK is concerned, it is the ‘reduced demand’ that has really twisted the knife!
Today, the choice of available Koi is wide, from Japanese to Israeli to ‘home-bred’ to those bred in many other countries all over the world. Call me old-fashioned but, for me and my requirements, there’s still only one choice. My ‘choice’ is no different now that it has ever been and please do not mention the oft-quoted old chestnut of ‘Yes, but the Koi bred in such a country are coming on in leaps and bounds.’ The answer is the same which is ‘Yes, they may well be coming on in ‘leaps and bounds’ but so are the Japanese-bred ones – and usually in much greater leaps’.
But that’s only a personal view and observation.
However, the choice of which country we buy our Koi from still remains and there are still many avid Koi enthusiasts around in the UK today albeit their once-numerous like-minded enthusiasts have now been reduced significantly.
Of the Koi outlets with Japanese Koi as their main (sometimes only) stocks, these are being caned much more than those with cheaper Koi for sale from other countries. It also does not help when many are referred to as being ‘overpriced’ and ‘rip-off merchants’ and such from the likes of some enthusiasts who have been to Japan once or twice some years back and they are convinced they know the true price of Koi, when in truth they know absolute ‘Jack’!
To prove they know ‘Jack’, I’ll quote an actual example where I know every price and cost involved in great detail and this should get as near to the bone as it possibly can.
It should probably put some light on the matter as to whether the UK outlets today are as guilty as labelled or not.
Since late 1982 I have selected 100 nisai Kohaku from Hasegawa in Ojiya and this went on every single year up to 2004 – 22 years in total. Throughout this time span, the base price of the Koi has remained exactly the same. There are between 2,500 to 3,500 closely packed Koi to choose from depending on the year and it takes me an entire day to select the 100 I wish to buy. The moving of the net has to be slow and careful in order not to damage other Koi and usually I select them in fives before inspecting them closely in the bowl. Often, one or two are rejected and replaced and so it goes, it is usually dusk before the job is completed. This is just a part of the job although few realise what’s involved.
Of course, many of those ‘in the know’, also knows that Hasegawa always has this wonderful selection to choose from – just as long as you get there at 6.00am on the 14th. October (unless otherwise informed) and you stand behind me, because I have always had the first choice!
In truth, this choice is available on only one day of any given year and you must be there on that day because, if you snooze – you lose!
In late 2004, I offered these 13” to 14” Koi for retail sale at £295.00 each, which was £251.00 plus VAT. I offered these for sale at £295.00 each because that is what someone coming in to view Koi needs to see clearly above a pond – one price for all. In truth, they should have been priced with a sign saying ‘From £125.00 to £395.00 – ask for prices.’ However, the public do not like these vagaries at all, hence the original sign. Usually the first 20 will sell at £295.00 – total bargains! Then the others will be reduced to £225.00 each or two for £375.00; the remainders will be reduced to £160.00 each or three for £375.00 and so on. The last to go will be sold at £95.00 each – at the end of it all, the same desired retail price is eventually realised.
Then another realisation has to be faced, had I only selected 50 Koi then my buying price would have increased by 50%; had I only selected 10 Koi then my buying price would be increased by 500% – if you follow the drift.
Had I bought one special Koi from the tategoi selection inside (same age, same size, same variety) then the price for that one may well have been the same as the price paid for the 100 Koi.
Then we must also take into account what the retail price would have been in 2004 had I selected 500 Koi that would have, most likely, reduced my base price by 60%?
How can anyone possibly come out with the statement that ‘They know the price of Koi’?
Now, relate the exact same scenario in October 2009, my base price will be exactly the same as it has always been for 100 selected Koi from Hasegawa. My air fare will be exactly the same, as will internal travel; car hire; diesel; hotels; food; drinks; air freight etc. etc. – always providing this is paid for in the currency of the country visited – in this case Japan.
Alas, today in Japan our currency is almost useless, add to this the enormous increases in normal UK business and running costs listed above, then deduct the insignificant 2.5% VAT reduction the government has generously given us all, the Koi selling at £295.00 in late 2004 will have to sell at least 2.2 times that price today which is £650.00 by my reckoning – that’s if the exchange rate figure in August 2009 is applied.
At the end of all of this, the UK dealer is not making any % increase in sales profit whatsoever and nor is the Japanese breeder. Still the ones who continue to profess that they ‘know the price of Koi’ cry ‘Rip-Off’ or ‘I find it hard to get my head around THOSE prices’ at every available opportunity.
Of course there are ways around it all for a UK dealer today, simply buy Koi in Japan for a little under half of what one usually paid, and 2004 retail prices can still be advertised – the only set-back here is that the Koi offered for sale will be less than half as good as they were in 2004!
Today the valiant band of ‘Japanese Koi’ outlets still here in the UK also need to sell many items of dry goods to supplement reduced Koi sales and this is reflected in their very detailed websites where many are kept in stock. If not, a telephone call to the supplier can usually get the items delivered to the customer on the following day.
It ain’t easy today by any stretch of the imagination, and these outlets are to be admired as they continue to keep the lines open from the Japanese breeders to those Koi nuts in the UK who still wish to buy some special Koi.
Believe me, even in the days of plenty, these guys didn’t go into it with visions of piles of cash at the end of the rainbow. Most of them did it because they just love being involved with Koi, and do you know what?
They still do!