Ollie Harvey goes walkabout with James Nicholson and Steve Kelly, the leading men at Raytrade UK
Raytrade UK was founded and incorporated in back in April 2016, and quickly set about recruiting leading brands for wholesale into the UK.
Raytrade’s sister company in Australia was instrumental in unlocking the door for the company to become the Remington distributor for the British and Irish marketplaces. Other brands have joined the portfolio in the subsequent three years but as James Nicholson, director of Raytrade UK, explains, the initial deal with Remington set the business up on the right track.
“Raytrade Australia has been Remington’s agent in Australia for 35 years and is their biggest distributor outside of the US. Together with Raytrade UK we are authorised to operate a dual warehousing agreement, so we can move and rotate stock between Australia and ourselves and vice versa. That gives us access to a huge range of stock,” he says.
“Initially we were focused on developing the Remington range of firearms and ammunition, these being the Remington and Marlin range of firearms and the Remington and Barnes ammunition ranges. As these are predominantly centrefire and rimfire rifle products, we were only targeting the smaller rifle sector of the UK market.
“When the opportunity came up to take on Yildiz shotguns from Entwistle Guns, it was a perfect fit for our business to take advantage of access to the far larger shotgun sector. Mike Mogilnicki at Entwistle had done a fantastic job for the best part of two decades in building the Yildiz brand in the UK.
“Yildiz came on board in the beginning of January, and we are seeing strong and growing demand. We see Yildiz as a key foundation stone for the business going forward.”
The other brand relationships include Chiappa – including their Rhino pistol range – GPO Optics and the EVOLVE branded range of moderators manufactured by A-Tec in Norway. James continues: “We’ve been targeting being able to provide a full range of key products for the industry.
“We are here to supply, service and support the retail RFDs and gunsmiths. We are a wholesaler, not a retailer. Our whole job is to make their lives easier and ensure we can give them what they want, when they want it.
“We are trying to bring a breath of fresh air into the market. To achieve that aim we are always looking for feedback from our clients. They aren’t shy in coming forward, which is excellent, as it means you can adjust the model to improve it all the time.”
“It is very much a work in progress but one with the objective to be one of the leading distributors in the UK. We have had incredible growth in the last two years and it is totally down to this team at Raytrade UK that we have been able to keep up. They really take it on their shoulders – so all the credit for what the business has achieved goes to them”.
Working closely with the team in Australia, James adds that Raytrade UK has been able to mould the original business model to suit the British market.
“It would have been a lot easier if it was just a cut and paste of the Australian business model to operate in the UK market,” James remarks, “but the markets are very different. So we have used a lot of their base experience and developed that to fit the UK market.
“As with any business, it is a learning experience but we take it a step at a time to find out what it best going to benefit the market. One of our directors is the head of the Australian business, so he’s over here regularly during the year to help us review where we are as a business and to use that Australian experience and knowledge base to best develop the UK business further.”
The Remington brands were the first to be launched through Raytrade UK. With over 200 years of manufacturing experience, the US brand is world-renowned as a leading name in firearms and ammunition production. “It was an extraordinary opportunity to take on the Remington brands,” says James.
“It is something that we are very proud of being able to do. It’s a series of global brands that have not maximised their potential in the UK market and that is something that we are working to achieve.”
James explains that the initial target was to reintroduce the Remington portfolio, and then take on additional brands that were already represented Down Under.
“The intention to move into the shotgun sector was always there. Yildiz provided an opportunity that came a little bit earlier than we had planned, but it was an opportunity that we certainly weren’t going to turn down. It was a case of right place, right time. Mike was retiring and it was a good fit for us, so we took the opportunity.”
“We are very pleased with where it is today. The relationship is developing very well with Yildiz in Turkey. I went to their factory in December – it’s a state-of-the-art operation. With the potential for what they produce now and what they will produce, together with its existing reputation in the UK market, Yildiz are a exciting brand to work with,” James adds.
Both James and general manager Steve Kelly, believe that there will now be a period of consolidation, but both are keen to stress that the business never says never. Steve adds that brands currently on board offer a huge scope to service all areas of the market.
He explains: “We have a user network of gunsmiths and retailers around the country and we have the ability to use their services to mix-match and meet the needs of market. Most of the brands that we represent, especially Remington, offer a lot of after-market products to meet specific market demand.”
Having previously worked in the Australian firearms market, Steve spots similar trends and welcomes the benefits of taking the Australian model that has been in place for 35 years and honing it to suit the local UK market.
“All of the brands that we represent – with the exception of Yildiz – the Australian business either distribute or there is some personal connection, through the directors or myself, to their owners or CEOs. We speak the same language and have shared objectives.
“As James touched on, it is about achieving that complete portfolio. With product available that every gun shop has to have – or wants to have. We cannot dilute the main reason we are here, and that is to support the trade with the products that we offer.
“The ability for us to pull stock out of multiple sources is fantastic and I believe it to be unique here in the UK. If it is unavailable from Remington, the ability to pull it from an Australian warehouse is hugely beneficial.
“Looking at our portfolio, there are only small gaps. Over the last 12 months we have taken on additional brands on from within the Remington group including non-toxic Barnes ammunition and custom-brands such as Dakota and Nesika. The custom firearms are due to arrive later on this year,” Steve says.
“From small beginnings we now have a tremendous portfolio that we have worked hard to introduce to the UK market. In a very short period of time we are now industry-renowned in the UK for holding stock and not just advertising. Our lead times for special order products are, we believe, industry-leading, which is fantastic. Most important is the support we have had from our industry clients and the demand from the end users,” concludes Steve.