Business looked promising for retailers in the month immediately following the British Shooting Show, and with more fairs and shows on the horizon, Gun Trade News’s Rebecca Bailey asks gun shops how they are getting involved
It’s lining up to be a good summer for retailers, especially those who beat the post-Christmas lull by striking out across the country to attend the British Shooting Show. Last month, Gun Trade News navigated the crowds at Stoneleigh to chat to exhibitors at the show; I followed this up by asking just how much of a difference showing face at the BSS makes to businesses across the country, and whether it promises good things for the coming season.
Paul Hart, from The Pigeon Shooter in East Yorkshire, is up first. He says he is enjoying “stable” sales in store, following a decent taking at the show. “We were actually up this year,” he says – and he’s not the only one I heard express this sentiment. Paul found, however, that the extra day threw up an extra set of overheads to contend with: “The extra day cost me 35-40 per cent more, so you can’t really judge what you’ve made. If they’d kept it as a two-dayer, we’d have made the same sort of money.” But on-the-day profits were not the only consideration for Paul, who was pleased that the extra day gave him more quality time with each customer in the end. “If you’re trying to serve four people at once,” says Paul, “like on the Saturday last year, then somebody’s wanting to talk to you, they can’t talk to you, they walk off and go somewhere else… This year we didn’t have that.” The importance of spending time with your customers, face-to-face, is certainly something any retailer attending fairs and shows will tell you, and this month retailers are looking to reap the results of that extra effort expended at Stoneleigh.
One such retailer, Tom Forrester of Skipton Gunroom, has got himself a following after putting in an appearance at the event. While working in tandem with Daystate, Tom found customers were eager to chase him up after the event passed, which can only mean good things for Skipton Gunroom. “They know I’ve got a strong link with Daystate,” says Tom. “Some people recognise me, and when they see me at the show, [it] gives me the chance to work alongside Daystate, but also to promote the shop.” The Gunroom has been getting more business lately, which is in part down to Tom’s presence at the show. He says: “The Gunroom has had a couple of services, and I’ve had people ring and say, ‘I’ve seen you at the show, can you help me?’”
I ask Tom whether the personal approach has helped business. He says: “It’s at least another way of getting your name out… I’ll take business cards, hand them out, and talk to people about the shop.” He goes on to say that shotgun sales are doing well with the Webley 912 being favoured, and he anticipates a lively season for clay pigeon shooting in Skipton.
Meanwhile, a little further from home, Martin from Ardee Sports Company in Ireland was keen to share his findings regarding some successful shotguns. He pointed to an “increase in the demand for Silma shotguns,” saying dealers got “a great response to them at the BSS.” This bears out what How’s Business reported in the April edition of Gun Trade News, which is that the M80 Sporter and M70 were selling very well. Clearly that’s being noticed on the supply side as well as the retail side – something that bodes well as we head into the clay season. Martin says there’s “big demand” for the M80 Sporter, and the 20-gauge M70 has seen such a favourable preference, they’ve “stopped pre-selling the model so as not to disappoint any customer.” I bet we’ll be seeing a lot more of Silma over the rest of this year.
Mike Hurney, from The Shooting Party in the Midlands, has certainly felt a change in the air after BSS success: “We had a very good British Shooting Show, with takings up 40 per cent on the previous year, which in itself is a record.” He went on to mention that new business kept coming in after the show: “The Shooting Show has really kicked this season off. It’s a must-do venue for a lot of shooters.” On the back of this success, Mike spoke about venturing further afield when I asked him about the Welsh Game Fair: “It’s not something we’ve done before, but I have noticed that others retailers view it as a necessity.
“What I have noticed though over the years, certainly on our online business, is that you get a disproportionately high number of orders from Wales. It’s a rural region so it’s a good shooting area, but it is noticeable that on some days I realise, ‘Actually, all this is going to Wales!’ It shows there’s a lot of dedicated shooters there, and a physical presence there would be useful.” Another first for The Shooting Party is that it will attend the CLA this year. I ask Mike why the business is branching out: “I think it’s largely coloured by the result we had at the BSS. It was really productive.” But Mike is also wary of the variety and competition at the CLA: “The beauty of the BSS is that everybody passing your stand is a potential customer,” he says, whereas game fairs like Kelmarsh or the CLA draw a more ‘day out’-oriented crowd, which may not be so inclined to spend money on gunmakers’ row. “There are people there for the ferrets or the falcons or the steam train” Mike says, but perhaps not for guns.
Despite this drawback, and the increased expense of the CLA, Mike remains hopeful. “The BSS has very much motivated us to do more shows. This year there’s no doubt about it – we got immediate business at the show, and then we seemed to get a lot of follow on in the weeks afterwards… so it’s a nice incidental business that you weren’t expecting.”
With more and more retailers attending the summer game fairs in light of their successes early in the year, will this new enthusiasm be rewarded with increased sales? Let’s hope so.