How’s Business: Game Fair Special

CLA Game FairGun Trade News took to Gunmakers Row at the CLA Game Fair to ask the exhibitors what they thought of this year’s show.

It’s Sunday at the CLA Game Fair 2015; the fields have been churned into mud by thousands of feet, but the clouds are holding off with the torrential downpours that plagued Saturday afternoon shoppers, and exhibitors are hoping to finish off the weekend on a positive note. In the murmurings between stands, the exhibitors have, predictably, been engaging in the eternal ‘north versus south’ debate, and taking stock of this year’s Game Fair experience as a whole. The Gun Trade News team trawled Gunmakers Row (this year more of a Gunmakers Grid, laid out in four rows plus sthe shooting line) to find out exactly what the exhibitors thought, and if they felt the weekend had been worth the time, money and effort.

Doug FlorentDoug Florent, Oxford Gun Company
“Business has been average. It’s not been bad, it’s not been good,” Doug Florent says. “The CLA Game Fair is a great place to come. You meet people who you haven’t seen for years, old friends – it’s a social event as much as coming to sell stuff.”

But with sales slightly lower than hoped, what’s the prospect for next year’s Game Fair at Ragley Hall? “We are probably one of the longest serving members of the CLA, we’ve been doing the CLA Game Fair since 1980. But I think it’s a little bit disjointed this year. Gunmakers Row isn’t Gunmakers Row. We’ve been tucked away in a corner, which has cost us money in sales. So we’ll be thinking very seriously next year about coming. It cost us £15,000 to come to the CLA Game Fair with our stand. You’ve got to take a lot of money to cover that.”

 

Ladds GunsChris Ladd, Ladd’s Guns
The staff at Ladd’s Guns, retailer of big name brands across a range of rifles, shotguns and accessories, seemed to have had a frustrating weekend at the show. “It’s been down this year,” said Chris, while the other staff members agreed and commented on the lack of serious buying interest. “Friday was better than Saturday.”

When sales have happened, it’s not been particularly focused on one sector or product: “It’s been bits and bobs, we’ve got a broad range. We’ve been selling both new guns and second hand guns. But it’s just down – maybe 30 or 35 per cent down compared to last year.”

 

GMKKarl Waktare, GMK
“There’s been lots of interest in new products,” Karl says. “Generally, it’s new products [that get the most interest] like the Benelli 828U and the Ranger scope from Steiner, the high rib Berettas and the 690 Competition; all the new products that people come to see.”

I asked Karl to weigh in on the debate surrounding the fair’s location this year: “It’s good to be back at Harewood again after such a long absence. It’s been a well-organised fair and we’re pleased. I’ll be interested to know what the final numbers are. I think the principle of moving [the game fair] round is not a bad idea, but it gets people out of the habit of coming every year and it also does make it more expensive.”

In terms of infrastructure, though, Karl thinks the organisers have been successful: “The steel roads have been good, they’re keeping us out of a lot of trouble. [The organisers] have coped really well under difficult circumstances, with the weather.”

 

Cheshire GunJohnathan Farrugia, Cheshire Gun Room
The Cheshire Gun Room’s stand was busy on the Sunday, and Johnathan confirmed that things had been steady, if a little on the slower side compared to previous experiences: “Friday was pretty quiet really – it was okay, we sold a fair few guns, but not as many as we need to. Saturday was pretty good, and Sunday has been pretty steady all day. I think it will probably level itself out.”

In terms of the products that are going home with the shoppers, there’s been a fairly even spread of sales: “We’ve done really well on hammer guns this year – and we’ve done a lot modern over-and-unders, rifles, air rifles, air pistols.”

 

AlbionAnnie Belton, Albion Sporting
This leather accessories company is relatively new to the shooting industry, but Albion has enjoyed strong business at this year’s show. “It’s our best year to date and Saturday was incredible for us,” says Annie. “It’s the first time we’ve been on Gunmakers Row, so I do think position helped us. We’ve been going for four years, so it’s taken time to get the brand out there. In the equestrian industry we’re really well known, but in the shooting industry we’re still quite new, so it’s been really good.”

And for Annie there’s no question of whether or not to come back to the CLA Game Fair in 2016: “I think next year will be even better. The more we’re here and the more people see us, the more people seek us out.”

 

Elaine StewartElaine Stewart, Longthorne Guns
Business has been good at the Longthorne Guns stand. “The show’s been absolutely brilliant for us,” says Elaine. “Friday was an excellent day, we took several orders, including an export order, so it couldn’t have been better. Saturday we had a lot of positive interest, we’re sure that we’ll get some orders.

“I think the numbers are down a little bit, but certainly the people that came on Friday were interested in buying and seemed to make a bit of a bee-line for our guns, so we’re really happy.”

Elaine is also pleased with the location of the fair and its organisation: “It’s very handy for us, because it’s only about two hours away. The only criticism would be the ground, because with a small amount of rain it gets very muddy indeed. But generally, I think it’s very good. We’ve had loads of our clients come to visit as well, already with guns, enjoying a glass of bubbly and it’s been absolutely lovely to see them all. It’s nice that they’re coming back and they’re happy.”

 

Gilsan SportsSimon Fewick, Gilsan Sports
“Friday was quite quiet, not busy at all,” Simon tells us. “It was a strange kind of day; people weren’t spending.” But it seems business picked up for Gilsan after a disappointing first day: “Saturday was very good, we had a lot of people through the door.” And, he tells us, sales stayed steady throughout the Saturday, despite the rainstorm that drove many visitors out of the show grounds early. “We’ve sold stuff across the board, and quite a lot of 20-bore game guns.”

With Gilsan being a northern business, Simon sticks up for the location of the show – “It’s harsh that people say there’s no money in the north” – and insists that Yorkshire is undervalued in terms of its spending potential in the shooting industry. But he does admit that the demographic at Harewood House is significantly different: “There’s fewer foreigners and less of the London crowd.”

 

William PowellHarvey Turner, William Powell Sporting
Unlike the event’s large retail contingent, for William Powell Sporting the Game Fair was all about generating brand awareness, rather than raking in the cash. “This is more of a PR stunt for us,” Harvey says, “It’s been more about getting leads. I’ve been handing out a lot of business cards, and I think we will have got some leads from this weekend.”

The William Powell Sporting stand was in a prominent place on Gunmakers Row, and Harvey admits that this benefited them greatly: “The layout of the fair has definitely worked in our favour.” Overall, complaints are minor at William Powell. “The weather has held it back a bit. It’s not quite the same as if it was at Blenheim Palace,” Harvey says, but he considers the opportunity to network and create future business a success.

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