GTN spoke with Eduardo Hernando, the newly appointed managing director of Eley Hawk, about his impressions of the company and the UK shooting industry, as well as the direction Eley Hawk will be taking in future
Eduardo, you join Eley Hawk from elsewhere in the Maxam group – tell us about your experience thus far in the cartridge market.
I have spent the last 10 years developing sales of cartridges and components in the international markets within the Maxam group. I have also headed three joint-venture companies abroad. This diverse experience will lend itself well to Eley Hawk, where the product is at the centre of what we do. The great thing is that there is such a diverse market to serve here in the UK, from traditional gun shops to shops in shooting grounds to emerging online retailers. The use of cartridges in the UK, with the diverse gauges and types of gun, is a challenge on its own as well. The diversity that I have experienced abroad as well as my hard-won knowledge will stand me in good stead here in the UK market.
What have your first impressions been – both of Eley Hawk and of the UK shooting industry as a whole?
Firstly, my impression of Eley Hawk is of a company that is really woven into the tradition of shooting in the UK. The traditional heritage and 187 years of experience is truly impressive, and it has for a long time shown great leadership in its field and in the industry. I have also been impressed with the quality of the people employed at Eley Hawk, who are dedicated to serving the market.
Secondly, the UK shooting industry was out in force at the recent British shooting show, and the people within the industry that I met were dynamic and interesting. This was reflected in the types of consumers we met as well, who were passionate and enthusiastic clay and game shooters. It was heartening to see a competitive market with so many retailers, manufacturers and distributors flying the flag for British shooting.
What can you tell us about your immediate plans as MD – both internally and in terms of how Eley Hawk will support its dealers and keep consumer engagement high?
Our internal focus will be to consolidate our commitments to customers. We will be ensuring we create products and services that add value to the industry and the retailers we work with. This in turn will pay off for the loyal consumers who buy Eley and who rely on our clay and game loads to deliver for them, time after time, when it matters.
The brand has a unique heritage, and for a long time the company has held a dominant position in the market. This is kept going only by the commitment of the factory staff who consistently do a great job. The brand itself needs some marketing support, as all brands do, but at the heart of it all are products that consumers use passionately in their sports. The core capabilities of our products are what keep the brand alive. What is important is to make sure customers are aware of this.
We saw Eley Hawk’s branding go in a different direction a year ago with the release of the Amber and the Rebel. Has it paid off?
Any position of leadership in a market requires some calculated risk-taking. Amber and Rebel were launched with specific target markets in mind. Younger shooters require a load they can handle, but which still has good clay breaking power and patterning. We are very happy with the Amber’s first-year performance; in such a developed market, it is rare to develop a new subcategory successfully, but we are especially pleased with the way female shooters have taken the Amber brand to their hearts.
You had an impressive presence at the British Shooting Show. Is that something of an announcement to the trade? What are you announcing, in terms of plans and intentions in the market?
In terms of what we did at that show, we wanted to make sure that we sent a clear message to consumers: Eley Hawk’s cartridges are open to everyone. We set up a stand that we felt was open and welcoming, and I was particularly impressed with the effort put in by our marketing manager, David Thompson, who joined us recently. At the core of the stand there were videos of shooters using our product in all shooting disciplines, and we wanted to reflect back the positive sides of shooting that our cartridges bring to consumers.
As for plans and intentions for the market, we want to ensure we serve it well and support the trade well in partnership.
A key part of Eley Hawk’s marketing has been sponsored shooters such as Amber Hill – is that set to continue? What do you look for in a sponsored shooter?
There is no doubt that Amber is a fantastically gifted and talented shooter; it is a privilege to sponsor her. She is an excellent ambassador for the sport as a whole and we wholeheartedly support her in her goals. We know she has been putting in a great deal of practice in recent months, so I am really looking forward to seeing how she does in the coming year.
As for what we look for in a sponsored shooter: We want good people who support and represent their sport well. Yes, the desire to win, performance and stats are a part of this. But we also want people who are open, available and interested in helping others in the sport as well.
Eley Hawk’s product range is wide, with products spanning clay and game markets, lead and non-lead, and many price points. Is there such a thing as a ‘core product’ for Eley Hawk, or do they all carry the same weight?
Of course there is a wide range at Eley – we have sought to provide a cartridge for all of the shotgun cartridge disciplines within clay and game shooting, and while core products are always part of the range, we are especially proud of the long-lived VIP range for both clay and game shooting. Having all clay and game disciplines and gauges covered by this range is very beneficial for us. The depth and breadth of the range is unequalled in the industry.
And finally, when you aren’t shooting or running a business, what do you like to do?
I am a family man – spending time with them as well as sampling good food with friends means I get a good balance between work and life, which helps keep me grounded.