Taking on its own distribution in the UK is a bold move for Blaser. The German manufacturer of premium hunting rifles and shotguns has traditionally relied on using existing UK distributors, but with the foundation of Blaser Sporting Ltd that is all set to change. This new focus will allow the company to offer the full range of Blaser and Mauser products to the UK market as well as providing enhanced service to retailers and customers, as CEO Robert Sajitz explains.
“Setting up Blaser Sporting Ltd is a way for Blaser and Mauser to show UK shooters and hunters how extremely important the UK market is for us. Stalking is becoming more and more popular in the UK, and interest in high quality shotguns is growing too. We want to be at the front line of that, to be in touch and fully engaged with our clients and customers, and I believe we can interact much better as a manufacturer than going through a third party.”
Despite setting up the new company, Robert is keen to stress that it will be working closely with the Blaser head office and production facility based in Isny, south Germany. “Close links with head office means I can use their resources so UK customers can benefit from the relevant competence too. The whole approach centres on Blaser Sporting as an arm of the main business, meaning we can call on a huge amount of support. Communication will be quicker, we will be more flexible in terms of stock, and more efficient in the service we give our dealers.”
Robert’s immediate plans are to further empower Blaser’s network of 40 UK dealers so they can pass on the Blaser lifestyle philosophy to customers. “We want dealers who can sell highly technical products but who also have the same philosophy as us, in that they are hunters first and dealers second. This means they can identify with our products, why they are so good, and don’t see them as just filling a space on the shelf.”
In markets such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria, where Blaser and Mauser have a huge presence, customers are buying into a lifestyle, not just a product. “That’s what I’d like to achieve in the UK,” says Robert. “It is a way of life. You aren’t buying a rifle, you’re buying a Blaser or a Mauser, and the focus isn’t solely on the rifle but on what it means to buy a good product, for a reasonable price, with great after-sales service and so on.”
Robert, who cut his teeth at Minsterley Ranges and then as export manager at the Isny factory, is pragmatic about his role and what he hopes to achieve. “My role is to support the dealers and ensure they are empowered, and I want to focus on that, which is why I’d rather have a small number of dealers selling high numbers of guns than a lot of dealers selling one gun at a time. With well-trained dealers who understand the advantages of our products and can convey those to our customers, an end user should never feel the need to call me.”
The plan to run its own UK distribution covers both Blaser and Mauser rifles even though, as Robert explains, they are very different products aimed at very different market segments. “The two brands have a great following, with the Mauser MO3 and Blaser R8 coming in at the same price point but For Robert, Blaser is not just a product – it’s an entire lifestyle appealing to different shooters. The MO3, for example, has the same modularity as the R8 but is more conservative in looks so appeals to more traditional shooters, while the R8 is more aggressive and modern-looking. We are also broadening our customer base by selling the Mauser M12, which is lower-priced and appeals to a new segment of users entirely.”
Refocusing on stock is also a priority, with Robert pointing out that closer links with the factory will enable delivery times to be reduced. “The bottleneck is always with the barrel, and I intend to refocus stock on those bottlenecks to ensure dealers can be more flexible and can give better service to customers. We have discovered that there is a pain threshold in terms of waiting for a new gun: a customer will wait for a Blaser for three months, but if it goes over that then they begin to lose that initial sparkle of excitement.
“It is my priority to move away from that, so customers know they can have their rifle within a reasonable time frame. As long as we have the barrel the customer wants. we can build the chassis to go underneath that within six weeks. The modularity of our designs really allows customers to have a custom rifle without the custom cost and waiting time, and we want to capitalise on that much more. In addition, I want to establish a network of gunsmiths around the country that can carry out servicing whenever it is needed, without the customer having to wait very long for that either.”
Robert is clearly excited about his new role, although he notes that when you turn your hobby into your work, you rarely get to do as much of it. He does get out shooting and hunting as often as he can though, mostly around his home in Hampshire. Not surprisingly, he shoots a Mauser MO3. “I would happily shoot any of our guns, as they are very good and make a worthy hunting or shooting companion.”
He also rebuts criticism from some quarters that relates to critical parts of his company’s firearms being made on CNC machines. “Modern production technologies are one of the most important preconditions for the longearned reputation of Blaser products for groundbreaking innovation, safety and performance. Take the car industry as a comparison. I doubt that anyone would prefer one of the earlier cars for everyday transport when one with reliable, modern technology is easily available, too. The same is true for guns.”