Viking’s managing director, Sam MacArthur, talks to Ollie Harvey about how the company is transforming and her recent appointment to the GTA Council
The 21st century has brought about huge advances in the shooting industry. Sam MacArthur’s parents established Viking Arms in 1965, so she has grown up alongside the trade. She has worked for the business for the past 20 years and is now the managing director of the Harrogate-based company.
“Initially the business was all done from home, so it was a pretty constant stream of visitors, be they customers, manufacturers, developers, collectors. It was quite a unique childhood to say the least.”
Sam has also recently joined the Gun Trade Association Council; with two decades of experience as a distributor and wholesaler to sporting, defence and industrial markets, she is surely a perfect fit for the position. She adds: “I was honoured to be asked to join and the time felt opportune.
“I make no bones about the fact that I feel the GTA has quite a lot of work to do to be both relevant and effectual in today’s gun trade; however, the team at the helm are positive, aware and working to build a strong council representative of today’s industry, so I’m delighted to be a part of that.
Sam is eager to make her mark on the GTA, as she remarks: “I certainly have lots of ideas that I would like to put forward, however the strength of any council comes from the cohesion of strength of its members.
“There is a lot of experience, knowledge, expertise and indeed, wisdom on the Council as it stands, but I think a few more appointments from today’s industry leaders would be a strong move forward.
“It is very early days for me as a Council member, so at the moment I intend to listen and learn,” she adds.
When Sam was announced as the first ever female member of the GTA Council, she remarked that she had no intention of simply being a tick-box for the association. “It is funny how people jump on a particular comment,” Sam says. “I’ve already had a little ribbing about that from the Council – although I should add that it is just friendly banter.
“Firstly, I don’t think that anyone has argued that is why I am on the Council. The point I was trying to make is that I don’t personally consider my gender as relevant.
“I am delighted with the growth of female shooters, the recognition thereof and their growing contribution to the industry. However, I don’t really think I represent female shooters. My appointment to the Council is about my business experience within the gun trade – I just happen to be female.”
Sam puts the growth of female shooters down to the fact that society has had a shift in perception across the last 20 years, and the industry has started to recognise this half of the population. Sam comments: “There are some very talented individuals and some wonderfully strong characters that have lifted their heads above the parapet – to be honest, however, I am not one of the them.
“I have always just been getting on with my job and never actually considered the fact or even experienced any difficulty with being female.”
Sam has also noticed a similar unity within the GTA. While there is a balance to be struck between attracting new members to the GTA and industry as a whole, as well as serving the current members, Sam is not aware of any disparity between the interests of the industry and GTA members.
“I would say that any trade body exists to serve its trade – however, to me membership of the GTA represents the next level. It denotes the fact that as businesses we understand our industry is increasingly complex and not to be taken for granted.
“The gun trade requires the highest standards throughout its operations, and it’s through access to the collective knowledge, expertise and experience of the industry that we can be sure to achieve this and safeguard the future of our businesses.”
The most immediate threat to the shooting industry are the recent changes to General Licences, and Sam expects repercussions for the GTA as well as Viking and other facets of the trade. “I hope, if anything, that it’s a wake-up call and people see the vital importance of our trade and sporting associations,” she remarks.
“The reality is that our industry will always be under attack in one way or another because of the society within which we live. Vast majorities of the population do not understand our sport, our land management, our jobs, our existence. In vastly simplified terms the mass media tells them guns are bad – therefore all and every activity and person associated with them must be bad also.
“There is an individual responsibility to educate whenever possible but it is on our Trade and Sporting Associations that we depend to actually fight the battles, organise industry and participants and hopefully effect change through education initiatives and the maintenance of the highest of standards throughout our activities.”
In addition to joining the GTA, Sam has also recently overseen the Viking Arms rebrand – the company has now taken on the more streamlined title, Viking. Her role will not change, though she jokes that she may need to find an extra day in the week.
“We are a forward-moving business with a dynamic team who wanted to freshen things up a bit, and given that everyone always refers to us as ‘Viking’ anyway, it seemed like a natural progression. Viking is lucky to have a great team with its own media and marketing department – the process usually starts with a suggestion at one of our meetings then that basically grows arms and legs.
“We are pretty good at sharing ideas and making sure we have buy-in from all team members, so various options and ideas are put forward and it is put to a vote.”
Viking’s portfollio spans rifles, shotguns, optics and more – sometimes more than one brand in each area. Sam explains how each brand gets the care and attention it deserves: “When we represent brands we are careful to ensure there is no conflict of interest – so although they may be the same thing in simple terms, they always have quite unique features, price points, purpose or market share.”
Perhaps more impressively, Viking has maintained strong relationships with several key brands. With distributorships changing hands more and more often, Sam credits Viking’s long-standing team for establishing brand loyalty.
“I am so very lucky to work alongside such great team here at Viking – some of whom have been with us since Viking first started. As a company we genuinely value relationships – be they with manufacturers, customers or staff. When someone leaves or things just change, we really do take it quite personally because usually there is also a friendship that has developed along the way.
“Personally, I think this is important – in business, as in life, there are always issues to face and sometimes difficult questions to ask. If you are starting off on a stronger footing, you are more likely to get positive results for everybody.”
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