It’s usually a good rule of thumb that the British Shooting Show, based at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire, tends to be all-systems-go on the Friday and Saturday, but a little quieter on the Sunday. Considering that this Sunday in particular was Valentine’s Day, most people assumed that the male shooters, fistfuls of money at the ready, had been dragged out for day trips or to expensive restaurants instead. But walking past the stands of large retailers, such as Cheshire Gun Room or Ladd’s Guns, on Sunday at 3pm, things seemed far from drawing to a close. Indeed it was impossible to ask these exhibitors ‘How’s business?’ thanks to the over-abundance of customers requiring their attention. Even if Sunday was quieter compared to the preceding two days, visitor numbers were still enough to make most of the exhibitors I spoke to very much satisfied with the weekend as a whole.
“It’s been really busy. We’ve had two very successful days,” said Jackie Croot of Croots England. “Today’s been a little bit quieter, but the first two days have been very good. It’s been a really good mix of customers visiting the show as well.
“Even though this is the end of the shooting season, there’s a lot of people planning on what products to buy for the up-and-coming season this year.”
The Croots stand benefited from being in a prime position, situated next to other big names such as Westley Richards, Hull Cartridge and GMK, and was prominent enough to attract a steady flow of customers: “We feel we’ve got a really good pitch here – it’s the first time we’ve exhibited at this show, so we’re really pleased with the reaction and the amount of people we’ve seen here. It’s a great advertising tool for us as well.
“Strictly, we normally do just the trade shows, so this has been interesting because, obviously, we like a lot of feedback from customers and just finding out what type of products people are looking for, and getting to chat to people who have either already got products of ours, or about what might be best for them. But it’s been really positive. For the time of year it’s at, it’s been a really positive feel to the show.
“It’s nicely laid out and sectioned as well, so it’s clear for the visitors to actually focus on the bits that they’re interested in. It’s great for everybody to see what we do. It’s nice to advertise to all. We’ll definitely be back next year; we’re really pleased with it. You see a lot of people in a very short time.”
Jamie Ransome of Deben was equally enthused with the show: “It’s gone extremely well, it’s been the busiest show we’ve experienced at the Shooting Show. Friday was fantastic; it felt very busy indeed. Saturday was the same, and today, even on a Sunday, the number of people coming through the door is definitely up. It’s been really good for us.
“To be fair, this has been one of our first public outings with the new branding. Hawke’s new look has gone down extremely well – the design of our stand, everything like that – so it’s been positive, in terms of loyal Hawke buyers, and new interest as well.”
Deben has been exhibiting at the British Shooting Show since its inception, and Jamie remarked on how the event has continued to grow throughout the years: “When it first started at Newark, which was eight years ago, we did the first year. Then I believe we missed a year; the weather wasn’t very good and the venue wasn’t the best, but this venue is perfect. I think it’s the best venue to have and we’re under cover. It makes it feel more like an exhibition. We’ve attended every year since it’s been here.
“It’s obviously changed and the organisers have changed, but they do a good job and they work hard for us, and I think this is one of the more beneficial shows in the calendar year for us.”
Andy at Global Rifle noted that Sunday felt a little quieter compared to the Friday and Saturday (“I think all the women are being taken out on Valentine’s”), but added that his team had shifted a lot of stock over the weekend: “Mainly our stock at the moment, that we’re selling today, is torches and bipods, and most of the torches are going quite well. We’ve got a couple of lines that are selling quite well – Mega Torches, which is like a lamping torch without having to carry the battery packs, and as usual our bipods are selling quite well, so we’ve not done too badly.” And Andy confirmed that Global Rifle will still be marking the show on its calendar for next year.
Two companies that were a little less effusive were Riverside Outdoor and Stalkers UK. The staff at Stalkers UK said the show had been busy overall, but were reticent in promising a return visit: “It’s touch-and-go because the stand costs are very high and I literally have to work for two days just to pay for my slot. Because most of my stuff is under £50, I have to really do some business to pay for the stand.”
Michael Evans of Riverside Outdoor estimated that they were down 15 to 20 per cent on the previous year’s Shooting Show, due in part to the start of half-term and Valentine’s Day. “We’ll come next year, because it’s covered the wages and paid some of the bills, but it wasn’t as good as last year,” said Michael. “Last year, this show was our second best show of the whole year – the best show was the Midland.”
Riverside Outdoor also suffered from a shortage of camouflage hides, which saw unexpected levels of interest from visitors, but quickly found a solution: “We’ve been taking internet sales – we’re posting them out on Monday and Tuesday.” An important lesson for exhibitors and organisers alike, that a good WiFi signal can be the difference between closing a sale and losing a customer.
The exhibition halls at Stoneleigh this year certainly saw a healthy number of visitors, especially on the Saturday, and it seems that most exhibitors saw this translate into sales. Despite some negative points made, for the most part the traders are confident enough in the show to already be planning ahead for next year.