Ad spends are up again across the trade – but once this figure would have been the norm and not a peak, as Gun Trade News editor Colin Fallon reflects

Advertising is up for the second month in a row, though in some sectors it’s hard to work out who’s providing this boost.

Take the top 10 retailers list, which doesn’t exactly look any better than two months ago, when we had a very poor overall toral. Not only can you get into the top 10 with just two pages of advertising – you can tie for a spot in the top five.

Actually, it’s been something of a poor month for retailers, with the big distributors more than compensating. But even last month’s ‘good’ retail advertising total is barely more than half of what I considered good when I took on this column a mere seven years ago.

Obviously given the overall total, though, there are signs of growth to be found. Above that ‘base’ in each top-10 chart, we’ve seen healthy rises from some companies, along with the usual subjects at the top.

Not that the lists are  full of completely new names to the industry, but the likes of Thomas Jacks and Hawke are establishing themselves as regulars in the top 10 now, when not long ago they were never to be found – a heartening sign of growing confidence.

Fingers crossed…

We have passed the typical ‘trough’ in spring and move towards a summer buoyed by game fairs and then the game seasons, which are never as far away as you think.

If only the rises were as sharp as the falls – but then, there’s nothing wrong with slow and steady when it comes to long-term business. There’s not much we can do about the seasonal nature of the shooting market, but we can look for signs of steadier, longer-term growth that cut through this seasonality.

This month’s results aren’t enough on their own to indicate such growth, but we can look forward to the summer season with renewed hope.

So there are 15 more pages of advertising in this month’s magazines. Where have they come from? The answer to that isn’t immediately obvious – the biggest gains on last month have come in the hard-to-define ‘Accessories and ‘Other’ sections.

You’ll find all sorts of products and services advertised on these pages, from gun safes to game fairs, multi-tools to mugs – but scanning through the list of data, one type of advertiser that recurs in this category is shoots and shooting grounds.

Of course, with the clay competition season getting properly under way, this is the time for it – but they are worth mentioning here anyway, as they are responsible for a significant chunk of advertising but very rarely get an individual callout in Industry Data as no individual ground is big enough to break top 10s. It is as a unit that they really show their strength.

Of the 20 advert pages excluding classifieds in the issue of Clay Shooting surveyed here, seven are for clay grounds or shooting schools. Not a huge surprise, but they aren’t confined to the clay mags.

Shooting Gazette and Shooting & Conservation add another three or four pages each. Already it looks like a significant sector, and that’s in a month where Pull! isn’t included in the survey. 

Final word

I tend to criticise businesses for not advertising enough – and it’s not just because I want GTN’s coffers to be filled. Really! It’s important. According to, small business owners tend to give marketing a low priority, which in some cases leads to them having a difficult time executing it very well and maintaining a good return from it.

But it is a vital part of attracting customers and needs to be involved right from the planning stage as opposed to being an extra you think about after everything else.

Allbusiness’s Kevin Stirtz says: “Too many businesses fall into the ‘if we build it they will come’ trap. If you don’t let people know what you do and why they should do business with you, they won’t. Business owners need to view advertising as a critical expense just like paying the rent, hiring employees and filling the shelves.

“For local, retail businesses that target a local audience, I think four to eight per cent of desired gross revenue is a good range to consider. For newer businesses or those wanting to grow faster, the higher end of the range is best.”

If you baulk at spending eight per cent of your planned turnover on ads, consider how much the very largest businesses spend. I remember a few years ago when one of the UK’s biggest advertising accounts, Tesco, changed hands, with a multitude of companies pitching for it. How much is that ad account worth? I’ll give you a second to guess how much Tesco spends on its advertising…

Time’s up – and the correct answer is no less than £110 million. Now that’s a big decision.

For the best field sports news, reviews, industry and feature content, don’t forget to visit our sister publications Sporting Rifle, Bow International, Clay Shooting Magazine, Airgun Shooter. And our YouTube shows The Shooting Show and The Airgun Shooter.


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