Huw Hopkins grabs a three-way interview with Anglo Italian Arms’s Kevin Gill and Mike Mansfield, plus new recruit Alistair Dawkes.
So, you’ve got a new location, new staff and a new distributorship… that’s a lot of news.
MM It’s our opportunity to expand the business again. At the old unit we had to move. Even without Lokaway, our new gun safe brand, we were at full capacity. Since the move we have been able to increase our stock of Caesar Guerini and Fabarm to much better service the market in the future.
KG Also, we have started doing some repairs in house.
MM Yeah – modifications such as putting an auto-safe linkage in the gun, or having one taken out, simple things such as changing ejector springs we can do here. We are heading towards covering 70 per cent of our warranties in house. Going forward, we want to be able to take 100 per cent of it in house, and to make modifications that the customer will want to buy.
You’re now fully set up in your new premises – so is 2015 set to be a big year for you?
KG I think 2015 is an exciting year because the model we launched last year, the Invictus, will come on line fully and stock will be available throughout the year, whereas we had limited numbers towards the end of 2014. And I do think the Invictus is a massively exciting development in the Guerini range. It takes the product to a new level in competition guns. I’m massively impressed with the way it shoots – the concept of being able to renew the gun back to factory settings as many times as you want is great.
MM And of course they’re extending that model for us and rolling out new models.
KG In 2015 the Invictus will be available as an Ascent model, which has also been a massive success for Guerini. Since its launch we haven’t had any stock of it here at all. As fast as it came in it was going out, and if we could have got more they would have flown out as well.
Where does the Guerini brand sit in the market alongside the other Italian giants such as Beretta and Perazzi?
KG We feel that Caesar Guerini is a young, new company. The future of the sport needs to be addressed, and the young shooter is very important to us. Brett Winstanley, Jez Bird – they’re all in the younger category. New product, new, young shooters.
MM We’ve been particularly successful in 2014 in terms of generating market share, but people still talk about us like we’re new brand, and we are in a way, but this is the tenth year we’ve brought Caesar Guerini to the UK and it’s proven reliable.
Sponsored shooters such as Brett, Jez and Richard and Tanya Faulds clearly play a key part in your marketing – is that set to continue or even grow?
MM Recently Tanya and Richard signed a new extended contract with Guerini. They will be with us for the next four years at least, so that’s great for us but great for them as well.
That said, one has to balance the books. We have brand ambassadors with Richard and Tanya Faulds, they do a fantastic job, but the future of the sport is the younger people coming through. Brett’s only 24.
KG Yeah and Jez is still young. It is important to look after the young shooters because they are the future and they need the help to keep them in the sport.
We do have a couple of other young shooters we’re looking at and we’re sponsoring a few young ladies at the moment. That’s an area we tapped into in 2014 because we were the first brand to launch a gun suited to ladies.
Tell us about your ongoing plans to support your retailer network.
MM A lot of what we do is based around dealer days throughout spring and summer. That’s a great opportunity for us to get out with the public and for customers to visit grounds all over the country to try new guns and models. The customers get to handle the gun and see the gun, but they also get to pull the trigger.
KG It gives us instant feedback. We’re talking to the end customer and it gives us feedback straight away – whether it’s our ladies’ model, the Syren, or another shotgun. They’re speaking to us, shooting with the product and saying they like that, they don’t like this – it’s great and gives people a chance to handle products that perhaps they would have never shot had they not been at an event like that.
A lot of guns sell on the back of those days. People come to a dealer day and are impressed with the gun – you can’t beat trying a product. We do a lot of them, and we wouldn’t do them if they didn’t work.
Why did you decide to branch out from distributing shotguns, with the Lokaway safes?
KG What Lokaway will do is the same as Guerini. It’ll sell itself the same way as Guerini does now. It’s a new market for us – we’ve not done security products before as far as guns are concerned. We’ve got a good dealer network but we need to get them out to the rest of them and promote it to the consumer too. Once people see the product they are hooked on it.
MM It’s revolutionary, what they’ve done on the door. When a customer first sees it, you have to demonstrate the opening and closing of the door two or three times because it is such a different concept, and we are five or six weeks into receiving our first delivery, but several of them have already sold out of their stock and taken a second delivery. It’s going places, and we’ll see as the year rolls on how quickly we can get the brand out there and established.
Alistair, you’re overseeing the spares, accessories and warranties side of the business. What have your experiences been like since joining?
AD Right from the start it was a baptism of fire. The first few weeks was doing a bit of everything, and then the week at the Guerini factory was a lot of learning. We’d work 12 hours a day, and I was learning everything I could about the guns, learning how to put things right and find things that are wrong.
We don’t get too many repairs getting back to us, which is a good thing, but you get the occasional gun back to be tightened up if it’s been shot a significant amount.
I wasn’t from a shooting background before, but I’ve tried to get out as much as I can and I’ve enjoyed it. And having Kevin behind you telling you what you’re doing wrong – there’s not many people that can give you a better helping hand. I’m not sure I’ll get into the Academy but I probably started off missing most things and am now getting on fairly well.
From day to day it feels like the business is going from strength to strength, and we’re figuring out new ways of doing things more efficiently. In terms of the company as a whole, for me it’s a different experience and I’m always doing something a bit different. It means I enjoy every day.