The much-awaited British Shooting Show took place at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, over 13-15 February 2015. Since its beginning in 2009 it’s become a major public showcase and launch pad for gun manufacturers, retailers and accessory suppliers both international and domestic – but it’s also a place for retailers to get down to the serious business of selling. I asked a number of UK exhibitors at the show, from both sides of the supply-retail equation, whether they had a successful show.
For the distributors, the show seems to have been a success in terms of raising brand awareness. David Thompson of Eley Hawk said: “Absolutely, it was successful, yes. This was the first time we have ever exhibited there so it was about reaching out to new people and it was also great to see so many people from the trade out therl. We were in Hall 2, in the Gunmakers’ Hall, which was great because it acted as a filter to direct people who really wanted to know more about shotguns and cartridges to us. We had quality interactions with people.” Eley Hawk specialises in cartridges and David revealed that due to the difficulty of bringing live ammo to the show in volume, the company was more focused on raising brand awareness. “It was one of those situations where we felt that if we were trying to sell on our stand, it wouldn’t have been successful as the footfall wasn’t as good. I had some strong audio-visuals on the stand, which really helped drive interest up,” he said.
Angie Simonds of Fur, Feather and Fin had a similar experience: “It was a very successful show in terms of people coming to our stand who hadn’t seen us before and learned what we did. We had never been to the BSS before but we go to the CLA Game Fair and have catalogues sent all over the country, so some people who knew us from the mail order were happy to see us – lots of new people, also.” Cheshire Gun Room was in a similar position, with Alastair saying, “It was successful: we did quite well. Obviously I’m working while I’m there so don’t have the biggest opportunity to walk around and see everything but we kept getting told by the customers that we were the busiest stand there. We must have been doing something right!”
Only one retailer was more judge. Chris of William Powell explained that given the company largely deals with bespoken custom orders from buyers, it would take weeks for them to see if the show had paid dividends.
Cheshire Gun Room’s stand was situated in Hall 1, where most wished to be. Alastair explained: “We know the people that organise the show and have been doing it for years and years – obviously you have to pay for it, but we do get a good stand.” Fur, Feather and Fin’s Angie spoke of the company’s own experiences: “Our stand was in a tent: next to Hall 1, but in a tent. I think that was our fault for booking a bit late. Certainly I think the main hall was buzzing a lot more than our hall. I know quite a lot of the people that sell there and they were much busier.”
Hall-envy seems to have been common among exhibitors, with Chris of William Powell explaining the company’s relief at a last-minute switch to Hall 1. “I think we would have been a lot quieter in the former,” he said. EJ Churchill’s Amy said of their position: “We were on the edge of Hall 2 and didn’t get as much footfall as we had hoped.” York Guns’ stand was situated in Hall 4, and their verdict was: “A lot of people griped about it, but we found it excellent.”
Serious traffic accidents on Saturday morning led to the M40 and M1 motorways being closed, with many retailers commenting on the effect it had. Angie Simonds observed: “Friday and Sunday were the best days – I think Saturday was bad because of the rugby and crashes on the motorway, which hindered people actually getting to the show.” Eley Hawk and William Powell made similar observations but it was not a universal sentiment. Cheshire Gun Room referred to Friday as being “a little quieter than the others” but added, “It’s to be expected as people are obviously working.” Amy at EJ Churchill said: “Friday was the best day for us, Saturday was pretty good, but generally it was pretty similar throughout the three days.”
Last year’s show saw the event change from two days in length to three – has that now matured as a format? “The jury’s out in terms of the show being held over three days as opposed to two. I love the show circuit so I enjoyed it but three days on solid concrete was a back killer. I think we did prefer it over three days overall, though,” said Chris of William Powell. The York Guns team said: “It wouldn’t bother me if the show went back to being two days: it’s a long time as it is. By the end of it, you’ve had enough. I’d be happy for it to be two.” Cheshire Gun Room reported steady performance for all three days, with Alastair offering a few possible explanations for this: “I think we were a bit of an exception. We brought a lot more stock than most other places, we’re renowned over the country for good pricing and if there’s one thing I know about shooters is that they love a good deal!”
The show ran from 8.30am to 4.30pm on each day and patterns emerged with regard to the flow of attendees, particularly with regard to morning versus afternoon footfall. David of Eley Hawk said: “We definitely noticed a front-end-loading of the day but I think that’s natural as people have lives to lead and places to get back to. People were there early doors, ready to go, there were big queues early on, which I saw as a good sign. It was very positive: they were attending for a reason, and got to see what they wanted to see.” Cheshire Gun Room remained an exception, with Alastair noting that they stayed busy until 4pm on Saturday and Sunday.