As summer dawns, there’s a refreshing air of positivity spreading through the gun trade – GTN asks a selection of retailers whether they’re feeling it and what’s causing it…
The game season’s well done and dusted, the roebuck season’s not quite begun at the time of writing, the clay competition season’s only just creaking to life, and the prime Scottish sporting opportunities are some way off yet. Aside from pest control and pigeons, it’s hard to see what’s going to sustain demand among the shooting public. Right?
Not according to the retailers surveyed this month, who overall had a positive outlook, declaring that business was better all-round than it was a year ago. This might not be prime season for buying shooting goods, but there’s plenty to keep customers filling up gun shops, airguns and entry-level shotguns foremost among them.
At Park Street Guns, Stephen reports on overall fortunes: “Things are ticking along. That’s about all I could say – ticking along.” But that reserved response gives way to a reserved optimism: “I think there’s a little bit more of a buzz this year than there was last year – more enquiries being made. So it might end up being a bit of a better year.”
That uptick in fortunes comes from a variety of sectors, reveals Stephen: “We shift all sorts. Value-for-money things like the Remington Express, they’re flying out of the door at the moment. It’s good money – £159 retail – full power, consistent power as well. But it goes right up to the HW100 – we do sell some PCPs as well.” Definitely an airgunning slant at the moment, then? “Yes – once the game season drops off, the air rifles start picking up, especially now it’s light for longer and you can get out in the evening more.”
The clay competition season is kicking off, too, with the first couple of major competitions taking place. Does that serve to replace the shotgunning demand that may have died off at the end of the game season? “We sell a lot of entry-level competition guns. Berettas, Brownings, the lower-grade ones. We don’t sell much of the high-end stuff – I don’t know why. Perazzi always sticks – we don’t sell new ones, but second-hand ones always seem to stick for us.
“There’s people out there who will spend £10,000-£15,000 on a Krieghoff – I’d like to get some of those customers, but there’s no Trap grounds around us anywhere, so we struggle to sell Trap guns because there’s nobody around here who shoots Trap.”
With the weather getting hotter, we’re in the mood to ask about Park Street Guns’ plans for the summer: “We don’t exhibit at game fairs. We’ve done it a couple of times in the past – that was enough for us. Although we do see a pickup in trade after the game fair, because people have gone there to see what’s about, then come in to us to order it. The trouble is, if you buy from a game fair and something goes wrong, it’s a hassle to get it back to where you got it from. If you buy something from a shop and it goes wrong, you haven’t got far to go to sort it out.”
Moving northwards, Roger at Bromsgrove’s Shooting Supplies was positive, saying he had a shop full of customers. “Air rifles are starting to move now,” he continued. “In the main, it’s airgun hunters we get here.” Which brands do they go for? “A bit of a mixture, really – anything in the £450-£700 mark. BSA, Air Arms, and the Weihrauchs of course. As you would expect this time of year, it’s a bit of both – PCPs and springers.”
Moving away from the airgun sector, there’s some movement in the shotgun category, too: “We’re moving 12-gauges no problem at all, Sporting 12s. It’s usually the entry-level stuff, just above £1,000.”
Game fairs aren’t something Shooting Supplies does, but that doesn’t mean they have no benefit for them, as Roger explains: “The day of the Shooting Show, on the Saturday, we had a record day. People had gone to the show, couldn’t find what they wanted, and ended up in the show at the end of the day.”
Overall, things are once again better than this time last year for Shooting Supplies – something echoed further north in Cheshire Gun Room. “We’re going quite well, actually – it’s nice to be so busy this time of year,” says Johnathan. “I’m not just saying that because you’ve called – we were saying it in the shop the other day. Last Saturday in our Bolton store was one of the busiest since we took the branch over five years ago, and yesterday was mad busy for us.
“It’s definitely busier this year than it was this time last year. I wasn’t complaining about last year but it’s all right, really.”
So what’s causing this growth across Cheshire’s two stores? “Mostly the airguns, obviously, and the shotguns. In Bolton the rimfires are picking up too – but in Stockport it’s more airguns and shotguns.
“But really, everything’s going. We’re getting some really good sales – high-value stuff. The mid-level and entry-level too. So it’s good across the board.
“We’re doing very well with the Kalibr Gun Cricket. We’ve got another 100 due at the end of the week and about half of them are spoken for. In terms of general brand, it’s the usual brands – Beretta, Daystate, Weihrauch. They’re our key ones.”
The Cheshire stand is a regular sight at the major game fairs, and Johnathan reveals that’s set to stay the same in 2015: “We did the Shooting Show, we’ve got the CLA and Midland to follow – we do those every year. It’s a hell of an operation – we take around 800-1,000 guns at least, because if you haven’t got it, you can’t sell it. We always seem to be the first ones setting up and the last ones to leave!”
And over on the east side of the country, in Pocklington, Chris at W Richards says he’s being kept busy. “We’re selling a bit of everything – everything across the board. You never know – it could be an air rifle one minute, a shotgun the next.
“Berettas and Brownings are the big movers. It could be both ends – it could be cheap or it could be the top end. We sell one or two competition guns, but not a vast amount. Our area is slanted towards game shooting.
“We’ll just concentrate on what we’re doing this summer – even though the Game Fair is going to be at Harewood. We’ve done them in the past and it’s good PR work but that’s all they are – once you take your costs out, you just stand still. We could get some knock-on demand from the influx of shooters who are in the area and look us up.”
But even though the demand’s there, it doesn’t mean sales are easy: “We’re having to work a little bit harder, but that’s true across the board, No matter what trade you’re in you’ve got to be prepared to sharpen your pencil and give them a good deal. We’ve got Martin Lewis to blame for that, because he says to go into every shop and ask for a discount. But we can’t complain really.”