Talking Heads: The Italian job

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Anglo Italian Arms was set up in 2005 by Kevin Gill and Mike Mansfield after they spotted a gap in the UK shotgun market. “There was a lack of high-performing products representing genuine value for money,” says Mike, who was introduced to Kevin, a former Olympic shooter and now Team GB trap coach, by his son, at that time a competitive shooter. “Kevin was familiar with Caesar Guerini, and having visited the factory myself, I became convinced that this was the just the product to fill that gap.”

As is often the case in business, the fact that Mike clicked with Giorgio Guerini, who set up Caesar Guerini with his brother in 2000, also helped. “We hit it off immediately and I really liked his philosophy, the thought pattern of how he runs the business, the market they are aiming at and their ambitions – to be not necessarily the biggest but the best in their market area.”

At that time CG had a distributor in the UK, but after negotiations Anglo Italian took on the business. “CG was the first brand we started distributing, and that worked well for us as we could ensure the product value was not diluted and grow the brand organically through proof of performance rather than gimmicks and discounts,” explains Mike. “CG recognised the importance of trusting that the product, in the right hands, would prove itself over time rather than forcing growth too early.”

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Anglo Italian Arms is run by just three staff. Mike, a keen game shooter, has a varied role in the company: “I remain active in all aspects of the business to ensure it grows in the way I know it can. Kevin brings 25 years of competitive experience and the corresponding wealth of contacts and opportunities. Then there is Jo Isaacs who runs the finance department. She frees up our time to do what we do best: sell guns for our dealers and develop the company.”

Recent development came 18 months ago when CG took control of Fabarm, another Italian shotgun maker and now the second largest manufacturer in Italy. “It’s still early days,” says Mike, “but again, there was a gap in the UK market waiting to be filled by the right product.

“We’ve worked hard with Fabarm to ensure its range of shotguns is of a quality we are proud to distribute here in the UK and is priced at the right level. This hard work means we can offer the trade a more comprehensive range without compromising on quality or diminishing our reputation as a distributor.”

Mike goes on to say that Anglo Italian markets the CG and Fabarm brands entirely separately. “The brands are aimed at different market segments, in both price and styling. Fabarm guns enter the market at around £1,500 and cap at £4,000. They’re well-built, solid guns; their semi-autos are probably the best in the world and their new range will cycle 24g cartridges. They also produce a genuine left-handed semi auto. Their guns are also unique in that they are tested at 1630 BAR, which is higher than any other manufacturer tests in the world. In addition, steel shot can be used through the entire choke range including extreme choke.”

As for Guerini guns, which retail from £1,750 to £6,750, Mike says: “I believe they are the best on the market in terms of pound-for-pound value thanks to their sheer quality, engineering, aesthetics and reliability. Dealers are often pleasantly surprised at the trade prices we quote because the guns look so good and are now proven to perform incredibly well.”

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Guerini has just signed up Richard Faulds, gold medallist in Double Trap at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Richard, who was formerly sponsored by Beretta, made the switch in January this year. “Richard’s interest in CG is a great endorsement of the product and our personalised approach to business,” says Mike. “Quite simply, he loves the product; he has been pulling in some excellent results since he switched, and he likes the partnership we’re cultivating. He’s an extremely talented man with a strong set of personal values, and we are delighted and proud to have him and his wife Tanya on board, and that he is so keen to be actively involved.”

The ‘Faulds factor’ is working wonders for the brand in terms of exposure, and can only boost dealer confidence in Guerini guns, which Anglo Italian sells via a network of small, enthusiastic, well-established, family-run dealerships. “We want CG guns especially to be seen as a semi-exclusive product,” Mike explains. “At the moment we are targeting much of our expansion in Scotland but recently we’ve found dealers targeting us so we are having to be quite selective about who we take on.”

Anglo Italian takes a personal approach to its marketing strategy to dealers and also believes in enabling the CG brand to grow organically by demonstrating how well the product performs. Whether this is in person at a show or through press reviews, the company has built a solid reputation for the brand, enabling strong year-on-year growth. “We are also passionate about customer service,” adds Mike, “and have developed strong relationships with individual customers as well as our key dealers.”

Key to supporting and educating dealers and customers about Guerini are specific dealer days, which Mike says have been incredibly successful. “We arrange the days at a dealer’s local shooting ground, turn up with a 18 demo guns, a marquee, and set up several shooting cages so we can work with the dealer and their customers to produce sales. That has been hugely successful in terms of building a rapport and trust with dealers and customers, as well as generating significant sales right across the range. We now bring in 34 models split over different bores, barrel lengths, game or clay, trap or sporting and so on, so there is a huge choice for customers.”

Mike says working for Anglo Italian is a bit like driving a fast car as the business is growing so fast. “We’re at an exciting time as we are well on our way with this journey, but plenty of opportunities remain and we mustn’t become complacent. Company events such as dealer days, the British Shooting Show and the CLA Game Fair always reinforce my mantra ‘Do it well or not at all’. I might be guilty of being a perfectionist, but that’s not a bad thing in the world of business. There’s always more to do and more to achieve – I am focused on growing Anglo Italian Arms at the right pace and in the right way to ensure a solid, sustainable future for the business and for Guerini and Fabarm products in the UK.”

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