Talking Heads: Northern Shooting Show

Richard StokoeGTN talks to Richard Stokoe about the advent of the Northern Shooting Show, the difference between a show and a fair, and how the north is a misunderstood place.

It’s fair to say that the UK game fair and shooting show circuit has been in a state of flux recently – not just with the demise of the CLA Game Fair, but over the last few years in general. New shows are beginning to emerge and establish a place in the calendar, while older shows are being forced to reassess and strengthen their position in a competitive and changing landscape of events. One notable trend has been the rise of the retail-focused ‘Shooting Show’ (as opposed to the experience-focused game fair) – the British Shooting Show is an obvious example, and the South Yorkshire Game Fair illustrated its growth by adding ‘Shooting Show’ to its name this year. These events succeed for exhibitors because they return the show format to its core values of buying and selling. Where diversification may have once seemed to be the way forward, shows are learning to concentrate on their key consumer base to maximise quality over quantity.

Richard Stokoe, formerly of the British Shooting Show, is a strong believer in this principle – and it shows in his new event, the Northern Shooting Show. With an already crowded calendar of industry events, we asked Richard to explain how the Northern Shooting Show will be able to stand out from its peers and secure its place in the market.

“Firstly, it will be a shooting show not a game or country fair,” says Richard. “It is important to us to keep it as specialist as possible, as there are many game fairs out there already. We want to welcome shooters of every discipline in equal measure, where they will feel comfortable coming along and meeting like-minded individuals, along with seeing all the latest products and innovations in a professional, informal indoor setting. There will be plenty of opportunity to find out more information about other disciplines and have a go through our interactive activity areas.”

The show will take place in a dual indoor-outdoor setting, at the Yorkshire Event Centre on the Great Yorkshire Showground near Harrogate. Richard is full of praise for the venue: “It could not be a more fitting home for the show. It is in a fantastic rural setting with plenty of quality indoor exhibition space – and the outdoor space is the perfect backdrop for shooting and fieldsports activities.”

The scope of the show will remain broad within the shooting sector: “The aim is to create the perfect balance of exhibitors across all the shooting disciplines in equal representation. We already have manufacturers, distributors and retailers on board.” With six months still to go before the event, exhibitors include Air Arms, Anglo Italian Arms, Blaser, Bladetech, BSA, CSW, Daystate, Deben, Eley Hawk, Entwistle, Longthorne, NiteSite, Schultz & Larsen, Swarovski, Thomas Jacks, Vortex, W Horton & Son, Bowman and Zeiss.

But Richard promises that the show won’t just be the preserve of the ‘big boys’: “The cost of hiring a stand is being kept comparatively low to attract more companies, large and small. The one-man-band just starting out in business will not feel out of place, even though they will be rubbing shoulders with the more established players in the industry.

“While the show is the perfect platform for smaller businesses to showcase what they do and to test the water with new products and services, established manufacturers and distributors will be there to promote existing and new products and answer technical questions to drive sales for their dealers.”

Striking the balance that results in a successful show can be tricky, but Richard reassures us that the Northern Shooting Show will try to keep a narrower focus. “It’s a specialist show with a targeted audience attending,” he says. “Sensible ticket prices (£9 adult early bird ticket or £12 on the day) and comparatively low stand costs are all contributing factors for strong trade to take place.

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“Everyone is treated the same; as we understand, it is a symbiotic relationship between exhibitor, visitor and organiser. No one is above the other, as we have to work together to achieve success. We are a very small team, and with a small team you retain that personal touch. Knowing your exhibitors individually and understanding everyone has different needs is half the battle.”

Speaking of focus, there’s a geographical focus to consider. What about the Northern Shooting Show, we ask, is essentially Northern?

“It’s a show for the north. What I mean by that is it’s a platform for visitors and exhibitors that wouldn’t necessarily think about attending a show further south. Already we have exhibitors signed up that have never done shows before but see the benefit in attending a show that is on their doorstep as it minimises travel and accommodation costs. On the other hand we have quite a number of southern retailers signed up that see the north as a new hunting ground. Manufacturers and distributors have really grasped the nettle and are using it as a brand awareness opportunity and to back up their northern dealers.

“Being from the area, I understand there is a common misconception there is no money in the north. I think we have a great opportunity to dispel that myth. The area is very affluent and there is a strong countryside/fieldsports community in the county. The official statistics from BASC state we have 1.6 million shooters in the country, and Yorkshire as a county has the highest number of shotgun certificate holders compared to any other county. With 6 million people living within an hour of the venue and the nature of the show, we are expecting a strong turnout.”

The news of the CLA Game Fair’s cancellation has also had a knock-on effect for the Northern Shooting Show: “It hasn’t altered the core direction of the show, but it has affected the rollout of the launch. The phone has been red hot from exhibitors and visitors, so we have been pushed into launching the advanced ticket line almost two months ahead of schedule and we have added another hall purely for gamekeeping and gundog exhibitors, plus the addition of extra specialist outdoor areas. To be in a position six months before the event where we only have limited space left is a great place to be.”

Richard has committed to running the Northern Shooting Show for the next three years – but he is cautious to keep the show focused and not let its growth outstrip demand: “The scale is growing quickly but we are conscious not to have too many exhibitors and dilute trade for everyone. The first year is very much focused on creating a busy atmosphere, strong trade and happy visitors.

“Where do I see it in three years’ time? Who knows? The visitors and exhibitors will dictate that. All we can do is listen to feedback from the trade and visitors, respect the balance and spirit of the show and change the scale accordingly.”

The Northern Shooting Show takes place 7-8 May 2016 at the Yorkshire Event Centre, Harrogate. For more information, go to www.northernshootingshow.co.uk.

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