With excitement building for the Game Fair, Simon West reflects on the progress we have made and the obstacles that remain as we struggle back to that elusive ‘normality’.
Here we go! With us facing the roll back of restrictions—hopefully across all the UK soon—excitement is building for the Game Fair. I can’t wait to have the chance to catch up with those of you who might be there. Without distracting from the preparation work, there will be Gun Trade Drinks on the Thursday evening hosted by the GTA and Gun Trade News. We can get all that trade chat done before facing the public over the weekend. The Game Fair has also put aside space for a Trade Lounge, where we can escape and relax between shifts—or hold private meetings.
The GTA will be running the Gunmakers’ theatre, which offers a range of presentations on gunmaking crafts, the shooting industry more widely and an important series of talks about the transition to sustainable ammunition. If you need to get expert advice to help your customers, I recommend the sessions with William Powell’s team, Diggory Hadoke and even my stab at the topic.
However, what I think is really important about the Game Fair is recruiting the next generation. I am sure we will see lots of families attend and we need to build on developing the youngsters’ interests in shooting. As you will know, there were huge numbers of airguns sold during lockdown and many of them will have been used to introduce children to the sport.
Whenever you get an opportunity to help inspire this new cohort, please engage and encourage. Of course, we need to keep selling our wares to the earners—but to ensure a sustainable trade into the future we need to welcome the new. The Game Fair is a great opportunity to inspire new interest in shooting—not everyone has come to see the guns. As soon as they leave the have-a-go stands, start that conversation.
Bounceback and better
I am delighted that reports from across the trade, in all shooting disciplines, show continued evidence of bounceback and better. As GTN has found, there are shortages of some items that will be a frustration to retail. This is an international problem.
First, COVID-19 has disrupted production and supply chains. Secondly, there is the Brexit factor, which has put additional frictions in place. Some of these are procedural and some political; both lead to challenges to the transport industry, which often then sees firearms and ammunition as too complicated to carry.
Thirdly, there are real shortages of components. The USA is key to this, where increased demand for products has affected its domestic marketplace and, in turn, because of its global influence, affected international availability.
There are few indications that there will be a quick solution to the problem but I know our importers are working hard to address the situation. I will keep you updated with some of the work we are doing at Westminster and Whitehall to ensure the Government is doing all it can to ease the pressures on international trade.
Some of those shortages are also having an impact on the development and production of our own new ammunition lines. The four UK cartridge manufacturers have recently produced a useful update on progress towards meeting the sustainable ammunition objectives of the game shooting organisations.
They express a best-effort commitment to meet the 2025 transition target for field ammo but highlight the headwinds against which they are fighting. Both the pandemic and those international supply issues are denting seriously the progress they want to make. The bottom line is that the move to sustainable ammunition products is well underway but there will not be sufficient supplies in the next couple of years to provide everyone with what they might desire.
My point is that the ambition was always about transition and not a switch. Technical developments and industry investment in new machinery take time—let alone sourcing new components. And five years was the ambitious target before the pandemic. We need a continued frank discussion with our game markets to control expectations. Let’s get this right—not rush to fail.
There is a lot facing us all at the moment but much of it is customer led and that has got to be celebrated. Keep working with each other and remember the GTA’s founding principle from 130 years ago: “Obligation of Membership—Members shall at all times endeavour loyally to promote the general welfare of the Trade and give such mutual assistance to one another as will tend to secure this end.”
Hope to see you at Ragley.