Monday, August 26, 2013

Rural entrepreneurs strike it rich with duck stuff

See the New York Times story today, on the front page of the Business Section, about the family featured on "Duck Dynasty," one of the most popular shows on TV right now.  Of the Robertson family of West Monroe, Louisiana, journalist Bill Carter writes that their "conscious dive into the entertainment world has lifted a regional business into an international phenomenon":
They certainly are stars now — the subjects of the biggest reality show hit in the history of cable television, “Duck Dynasty,” which has shattered ratings records this summer, reaching a high of 11.8 million viewers for the season premiere this month. 
But in the more contained world of ducks, guns and camouflage gear, the Robertsons were already celebrities thanks to the family’s core business: sales of duck gear, especially duck calls. 
Now the range of merchandise attached to the Robertson name is so vast — shirts, caps, coolers, books, edibles, hunting gear of every kind — that keeping track of it has become almost impossible, said Willie Robertson, scion of the Robertson clan and president of the Duck Commander company.
Carter depicts Willie Robertson as quite the wheeler-dealer, quoting him in relation to his father, Phil, who founded Duck Commander.  Willie returned to the family business after several years running children's camps, at which point he
realized his father had created a strong brand, but 'he had pretty much run out of ideas.  
He didn’t know how to take it to the next level, and it might have started a downward slide, like a lot of family businesses do. 
* * *  
I was able to watch the family business from afar.  I was able to come in with a lot of energy and a vision for growing it even bigger.
"Bigger" includes so much Duck Dynasty paraphernalia that it sells in six different departments at Wal-Mart.  Apparently, women like Duck Dynasty shirts as much as men do.  

One of the most interesting parts of Carter's story is the tale of how a little outdoor show "tailored more specifically to actual duck hunting" on A & E was turned into the "Duck Dynasty" viewers now know and (many) love. Carter reports that "Duck Dynasty" was envisaged as a "cross between ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ and ‘The Waltons.’" The family dinner at the end of each episode would be like "Goodnight, John-Boy."
West Monroe, Louisiana, population 13,065, is in metropolitan Ouachita Parish, population 155,363, in northern Louisiana. 

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