Optimism after IWA 2019

There were a record number of exhibitors and attendees at IWA Outdoors Classics

The doom and gloom of European firearms media at IWA was unfounded, Ollie Harvey reports.

German press painted a bleak picture for the future of the trade at IWA 2019. The JSM (German Firearms and Ammunition Manufacturers Association) provided a chastening report that showed the German firearms industry to be stagnating.

The declining export figures for hunting and sporting guns have caused the industry to hover at €€185m (£158m) for the fourth year in a row.

“The declining export values are a result of the negative trend in US business, which was already apparent last year, and the increasingly protracted export licensing procedures for hunting and sporting firearms,” said Klaus Gotzen. “Unfortunately the export situation for hunting and sporting firearms does not appear to be improving for 2019.”

As a result, expectations for 2019 are more than subdued. This is also because inconsistent implementation of EU labelling requirements in the various EU member states is expected to lead to problems with the movement of hunting and sporting firearms within the EU.

The VDB press team declared the build-up the event ‘dark clouds, few bright spots’ amid reports of a struggling industry throughout Europe. “The 70th anniversary of the VDB (Association of German Gunsmiths and Gun Traders) will play only a minor role at this year’s IWA Outdoor Classic,” the association wrote, “The issues that the VDB has to deal with this year in particular are too wide-ranging and time-consuming, and in some cases are affecting its around 1,300 member companies to the extend of jeopardising their livelihoods.”

Jonas Andersen, Marketing Manager of Harkila, was on hand to show off the latest ranges coming to the UK market

But despite the forecasts of a downturn in the IWA experience, the ‘dark clouds’ never materialised among the British (and international) exhibitors that GTN spoke to at the event. Perhaps even more surprisingly was the omission of one topic of contention, and to prove it, this report will not contain a certain ‘B’ word at all.

At Harkila and Seeland, CEO Valdemar Bardram had three predictions for the future, as he explained: “Firstly I see clothing ranges working much more with layers. We have taken that from the outdoor sporting industry, which is actually a very Scandinavian thing, building up your clothing from the inside depending on what you are doing. 

“I also see a lot of technology coming in. Old, classic tweeds are now much more modern and have better membranes, waterproofing and breathability. I think five years ago, if you had put tweed and technology in the same sentence you would say it is never going to happen – but it has. It takes a bit of getting used to for the customer but they soon realise that it is good idea.

“The last thing is camo. In Europe we are seeing an increased need for camouflage. Because it’s no longer military style camo, it is becoming more acceptable to wear it. I have just come back from Russia, where they love camo but don’t want to look like the militia when they go hunting. 

“It is the same in the US, and increasingly in mainland Europe we do see more people asking for camouflage. 

“It is in fashion at the moment – I have been skiing in Austria and seen people in camouflage ski suits – you’ve got to be kidding me?” exclaims Valdemar. (Read more about the future of Harkila/Seeland in Trade Secrets on page 18) 

Whatever the trends to emerge, IWA is still regarded as the essential event for launching products and declaring trade news. Eley Hawk announced that Rodrigo Crespo was taking on the role of MD with the cartridge manufacturer, and marketing manager David Thompson explained that IWA is all about reaching international markets.  

“IWA is great for that because it is such a diverse range of audiences,” he commented, “It is the show to come to, to actually see what we do and also to strike new deals, to get more importers and expand the footprint of Eley Hawk across the world.”

International businesses reported great interest in their new product launches and didn’t once mention a certain European withdrawal 

Following the launch of Eley Hawk’s eco wad at the British Shooting Show, IWA was an opportunity to showcase the product to the rest of the world and spread the message of sustainability.

David adds: “We are constantly looking at ways in which users and consumers can recycle their products. We would urge everybody, whether is a game shoot or a clay shoot, to recycle their plastic cases with Agri-cycle based in Lincolnshire. 

“They have the capacity to deal with everyone in the UK, we just need to get them there and as an industry we need everybody to do that. From our perspective, the more we recycle the better it is for our industry. 

“We really want to get out there to more international markets, so anyone who is interested in working with us, all they have to do is get in touch and we’re happy to be of service,” says David. 

The other breaking news from IWA was the launch of a second event from the organisers of the British Shooting Show, due to start in Liverpool in 2020. 

“We’re really excited to hear about this development, and we will look at it very closely as a manufacturer, “David explains, “It should bridge that gap into the game season, with the British Shooting Show at the beginning of the clay season it would be a natural fit for us to go there.

“We’re really excited, as an industry, to see people investing in the future of our industry and for the gun trade as a whole. We’re excited to expand our footprint, and get new shooters into the sport right across the UK.

“Its another shot for us to pitch our products to the Great British consumer. They always want to see the latest things and want to check in with product recommendations, so having that key face-to-face time with people who shoot, is invaluable.”

But it is not solely British distributors utilising the event. While German reports suggests a downturn in trade, other European nations are positive about the future. Lithuanian clothing brand Thermowave praised the show as a good opportunity to network as they hope to expand into the UK market. 

CEO Audrius Pocius said: “We are looking more into the traditional outdoor market, as well as military and bushcraft applications. Thermals and base layers are a growing market and I think that merino wool has its distinctive features – the Germans call it ‘Schei*e warm’! It’s European-made, what more can you want?

“IWA is a great show; we have our hands full and we’re looking forward to a beer at the end of the day but it is full of new prospects, full of new people, and we are busy. We really like it.”

The feeling was shared by the team at ATN. Chris Melling was on hand to show off their latest models. He commented: “It’s been a really good show with a lot of positive reception, especially for the 4K model which has been out in distribution for over six months now.

“They’ve got a really good reception as well as the binoculars that we’ve had out on show – those are going to be in high demand as well – so plenty of products to look out for and plenty of excitement around them.”

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