As The Northern Shooting Show prepares for its fifth show, Richard Stokoe explains how the show is heading in the right direction.
It may seem a regular fixture in the British Shooting calendar, but it’s not that long since the Northern Shooting Show was the new kid on the block. Really, it’s amazing that barely four years after we first got sight of the show, it has grown into one of the most essential events on the UK shooting circuit.
Show organiser Richard Stokoe explains its sizzying growth as his team gear up for their fifth show. “We put it down to three things: the location, time of the year and the venue. There was clearly a demand for it, we knew that there was a niche and that shooters in the north of England were not being represented with a specialist show.
“The venue is perfect – we are a hybrid show where the mix of indoor exhibition space and outdoor space means we have many demonstrations and ‘have a go’ areas such as the manufacturers stands on the clayline, together with the prime indoor exhibition space.
What we didn’t realise was how much shooters from across the country would fall in love with it and travel so far to be a part of it.”
Once again the show will be held at the Yorkshire Event Centre near Harrogate. However, the big news for 2020 is that trading days are moving forward to Friday and Saturday, rather than the traditional Saturday-Sunday dates. Richard explains: “This was a decision that we really considered but feel it’s the right move.
“Sundays are generally the slowest day at shows and with the weather, in our opinion being ‘too good’ the last few years, has worked against us. We found visitors dropped off slightly on the Sunday in the halls.
“Commercially we need the indoor halls to be absolutely humming for the two days to continue with the show’s growth curve.
“After the show, the general consensus is the show is popular and profitable but the slow Sunday afternoon takes the shine off of the overall show. We are confident this year we will be more in line with two stronger trading days. If it works we will change the show days to Friday and Saturday for subsequent years.”
However, rather than seeking cosntant growth to the exclusion of all else, the Northern Shooting Show have no plans to expand on their current footprint this year. “We are happy to consolidate, as there was a lot of unrest in the marketplace with Brexit etc,” says Richard.
“We are tracking the same as the last show and attention will be going on quality of exhibitor and keeping them shooting related – we won’t be filling any gaps with fudge and jacuzzi companies!
Also, we won’t have too much representation of one thing so exhibitors attending the show know they will do good business. The fact that we have three stand price points also means every type of exhibitor can afford to attend.
As well as retaining a loyal fanbase of exhibitors, plans are in place to attract new faces into shooting. With under-16s getting free entry to the show, courtesy of BASC, Richard says that encouraging the next generation of shooters is something that is ‘hugely important’.
“We’ve gone a step further,” he adds, “and launched an initiative where children coming to the show, who haven’t show before, will pay £5 and get a ‘passport’ that allows kids to try out various types of shooting and have a game preparation lesson too.
Each stand will stamp the passport when they’ve completed their experience and it will be something they can keep forever.
“Hopefully it will be the spark to ignite their interest in the sport. A massive amount of effort has gone into trying to provide this route to encourage ‘grass roots’ shooting and luckily we have some great partners who all buy into our vision. We are trying to do our bit to make sure the future of the industry has some much needed new blood coming into it.”
Despite these initiatives, some potential exhibitors still hold the traditional view that a Northern show with be less prosperous than a more affluent Southern event. Richard is quick to dispel this stereotype and remarks: “The fact the quality of visitor is improving year on year would suggest the opposite.
As a variety of visitors goes, I don’t think you can get much better for spending power. Our statistics have attracted a lot of industry interest and there are some higher end exhibitors that tell us they do best at our show.”
With five years of glowing reviews behind him, Richard explains what he is looking forward to in 2020. He says: “Seeing the smiles on faces of the visitors over the two days; having them tell us how much they enjoyed it and that it’s the best day of the year.”