Doing business with Italy
One of Europe’s proudest and oldest gunmaking nations, Italy is a market bursting with potential that offers plenty of opportunities for both buyers and sellers. GTW’s guide helps you make sense of it all.
You only have to glance at the list of some of the gun brands that call Italy home to realise this is one of the major players in the global industry.
There is almost a complete A to Z of Italian shooting and hunting brands including, but not limited to, the likes of: Berretta, Fausti, Caesar Guerini, Perazzi, Benelli, Chiappa, Fabarm, Davide Pedersoli, F.A.I.R., Rizzini, Fiocchi, KONUS Group and Luciano Bosis. Many of these companies are located in the north of the country – specifically the region around the city of Brescia – which is one of the epicentres of traditional gunmaking in Europe, alongside the likes of Birmingham and London in the UK.
Largely, the Italian industry is focused on the production of shotguns, shotgun ammunition and associated accessories – Italy has a long and proud tradition of hunting with shotguns and also a very successful and well-supported sporting target scene. Italy has managed to position itself as one of the premier high-end shotgun producing nations alongside countries such as the United Kingdom.
There was a time when some of its companies attempted to target lower price points but nations like Spain and Turkey had already made strong footholds in these areas. There are, however, still a few Italian brands at slightly less than premium prices.
Shotguns, while a large part of the market, are not the final word on Italy, though. High-quality hunting rifles are also widely made and used by Italian hunters. The country also boasts a well-established and successful business of manufacturing arms for the military, police and personal defence sectors.
All of this paints a pretty picture of Italy as a country you should be buying from. Its brands are well known and well respected and carry credence all over the world – the only real inhibiting thing for your own market might be the price.
But what about Italy as a destination to export to? Well, you’ll need a brand of high quality. Like most highly developed markets, Italy’s shooters demand the best but they are also not afraid to pay for it. You’ll need to form a partnership with an Italian distributor you can trust and who is reliable as well as market your product properly as Italians’ heads are often hard to turn away from their ‘home brands’.
Legislation and associations
Gun and gun ownership rules in Italy are reasonably strict but the high number of firearm holders shows that the Italian public see this as necessary to protect their proud hunting and shooting tradition.
To apply for a gun licence, a person must be over the age of 18 and must prove their firearm handling proficiency by attending a special course at a shooting range. They may also be subject to police and health checks.
Once they have a licence, Italians can own up to three firearms – both shotguns and rifles – specifically designed for shooting sports. All private firearms must be registered with local police within 72 hours of purchase or transfer.
It is also possible to get a concealed carry licence allowing the applicant to carry a handgun for personal defence, however these are very difficult to obtain with applicants often needing to provide a specific reason why one is required.
Hunting licences in Italy are provided at a provincial level, with each province setting the areas where hunting is permitted – including both public and private land. The main hunting law in Italy is Law No 157 of February 1992, which regulates hunting on a national level in the background, but then each province applies more specific rules depending on the nature of its land, flora and fauna.
There are many associations and organisations that look after the interests of shooting and hunting in Italy. Some of the key bodies include: the Italian Federation of Hunting and Sporting Weapons (www.fidasc.it), the Italian Union of Rifle Shooting (www.uits.it), the Italian Target Shooting Federation (www.fitav.it), the Italian Hunting Federation (www.federcaccia.org) and the Italian Federation of Field Target Associations (www.ifta.it).
Italy is certainly a worthy market for anyone looking to expand their international business in the shooting and hunting industries. The country has the perfect blend of a strong tradition in the sector, combined with modern, forward-thinking and innovative companies that are at the very forefront of technology in the industry.
Italy’s power and influence within Europe also makes it an ideal place to start if you are seeking to increase your overall market share in the continent in general. Doing business with Italians can sometimes be colourful but it is always fair and partnerships can last for many, many years. You’d be crazy not to consider trying to do business with this Mediterranean Mecca of shooting sports.
Dialling code: +39
President: Sergio Mattarella
Official language: Italian
ECONOMY IN FOCUS
Italy is in the world’s top ten economies and is highly developed, with a reliance mostly on the service and manufacturing sectors. Service is the largest sector, accounting for roughly three quarters of Italy’s GDP and employing more than half of its population – wholesale, retail sales and transportation make up the bulk of this. This is a common theme among well-developed and powerful economies within the European Union (EU).
Manufacturing comes up behind the service industry and is still an important economic sector and employer – Italy’s manufacturing strength is particularly prevalent in the gun industry. The country is one of the most prolific gun-making nations in Europe, with long heritage and tradition.
Most of this points towards a strong economy in Italy but it’s not quite a simple as that. The country actually has one of the slowest growth rates within the EU and it also has a fairly high unemployment rate of almost 10 per cent. Part of this could be attributed to the disparity of wealth in the country – it is estimated that the north of Italy generates approximately three quarters of the nation’s wealth. The south is generally poorer, with fewer jobs and less developed high-end sectors like service and manufacturing.
Italy suffered heavily in the most recent global economic crash of 2008 and suffered a GDP drop of nearly six per cent. That, combined with a colourful and unstable political environment, meant Italy toiled somewhat for several years. Recent years have shown more stability and recovery, though. Austerity measures are beginning to wind down and Italy is seeking to flex its muscles as a powerful and influential economy once again, albeit cautiously.
GDP per capita: US$37,000
GDP growth rate: 1.1%
Unemployment rate: 9.5%
Top export partners: Germany, France, USA, Spain, UK
Top import partners: Germany, France, China, Netherlands, Belgium
Estimated number of firearms licences held: 900,000
THE INDUSTRY VIEW
Name: Giovanna Fausti
Job: General Manager
Products: Hunting and competition shotguns
“A huge number of Italian guns are exported, so the domestic market can be more interesting for the brands that work in defence and sporting. Unfortunately, the number of hunters is falling each year.
“In Italy, it is usual to see fine guns of excellence in the hunting market together with the competition shooting market. The biggest challenge here, as in other European countries, is the public opinion. It is necessary to work to inform and educate the people better, starting from school. The goal should be to let them understand that the modern hunter is the first protector and the best conservationist for the legacy of the habitat.
“Our plan for the future is to continue to work hard to create products that stand up for quality and creativity – these are the main reasons customers look to the Italian gunmakers.”
Name: Moira Facchini
Job: Sales Department
Company: F.A.I.R. Srl
Products: High quality shotguns and shotgun accessories
“Since its establishment in 1971, F.A.I.R. has specialised in the manufacture of functional and highly reliable sports and hunting shotguns. We believe that our focus on technical innovation is one of the key elements of our success, ranking F.A.I.R.second among Italian over-and-under manufacturers. Our state-of-the-art production facility in Marcheno includes several highly flexible lines, enabling us to manufacture rifle-barreled guns alongside the more traditional smooth-bore models.
”The hunting sector in Italy is currently stable and the number of hunters is stable too. Unfortunately, there isn’t a good generational change though – while the number of shooting licences is increasing, unfortunately for young people there are many obstacles for the hunting licences such as the cost, the procedure and the difficulties to take the examination.
“The shotgun market is the biggest and strongest segment here in Italy, especially with small gauges and long distance shooting. I think people want to do business with the Italian market because it has the right combination of being very historic but also very dynamic. We strive to develop new products and innovations.”
Name: Stefano Fiocchi
Company: Fiocchi Munizioni Spa
Products: Small calibre ammunition for hunting, clay shooting, defence and law enforcement
“Established in Lecco by Giulio Fiocchi, Fiocchi Munizioni counts more than 600 employees in Italy today plus another 90 considering our Subsidiaries in the USA and the UK.
“The clay target shooting market is one of the strongest and most well established in Italy. In addition to high profile and more mature shooters with great ambitions, there are a relevant number of young and competitive shooters, which is optimistic for a future perspective. Hunting is undergoing a deep evolution: the number of hunters has reduced compared to 20 years ago but the focus is slowly moving from small game to big game hunting. Target shooting is, overall, in good health. Considering the above trend in progress, there is good potential for precision rifle ammunition, both for hunting and for long-range shooting.
“I believe it is important to work on the perception of the shooting activities amongst the general public: we aim to enhance a sense of ‘sport value’ and ‘respect for the nature’, as key factors for preserving our passions.
“The Italian market features some of the world excellences in weapons and ammunitions manufacturing. Long tradition mixed to an innovative culture can bring new life into our sector and be fertile ground for successful international collaborations.”
In the crosshairs
Pheasants are found throughout the centre and north of Italy and, due to their abundance and Italy’s strength as a shotgun producer, they are a very popular bird to hunt. Pheasants tend to congregate in small woods and agricultural land between, feeding on seeds and berries. They are commonly hunted with assistance dogs as they can often hide in thicker wooded areas, making them difficult to spot and shoot. This is a much more accessible kind of hunting than some of the big game hunting Italy offers, over much kinder terrain and with no bag limits in certain places.
Hunting season: September to March
Hunting in the Italian Alps just sounds great, doesn’t it? And thankfully it’s very much a reality, with healthy populations of chamois stalking its stunning scenery. The stunning terrain from the top of the Alps down to the Mediterranean makes a perfect breeding ground for this big game, which is coveted by hunters all over Europe. Hunters must stalk the highest ground to find trophy chamois but there are plenty there. The only real challenge hunters face is the decreasing quality of conditions as the winter arrives. Chamois are just at home wandering snow-covered peaks as they are rocky slopes.
Hunting season: September to December
Found largely in Tuscany and also on the island of Sardinia, wild boar are actually somewhat of a pest species in Italy. Their exponential breeding (its estimated populations have grown from 600,000 to 1,000,000 in just ten years) and destructive habits have lead to mass damage to farmland and crops over the years. Because of this, hunting restrictions are quite lax on this species and they are regularly stalked by hunters throughout Italy. They make good eating and, in places like Sardinia, rural communities rely on the wild boar hunt for food and also for hunting tourism to bring money into their relatively poor local economies.
Hunting season: September to January
What: HIT Show
Where: Fiera di Vicenza, Vicenza, Italy
When: 8-10 February 2020
Learn more: www.hit-show.com
In case you weren’t already aware, Italy is one of Europe’s, if not the world’s, gun making heartlands. The country’s status in the industry means it should really be no surprise that it plays host to one of the market’s biggest trade shows: HIT Show, which takes place in the north-eastern city of Vicenza each February.
The show came into being as recently as 2015 and filled a gap in the market left behind after the demise of the EXA Show, which used to take place in Brescia each April. HIT Show’s ambition is to target a more international audience and it appears to go from strength to strength with each edition.
The show occupies five halls at the Vicenza Exhibition Centre (www.iegexpo.it) taking up an impressive 35,000 sq m of exhibiting space. Its last edition hosted exhibiting companies from no less than 24 countries (a 14 per cent increase on the previous year) and attracted a huge number of buyers from 14 different nations. It’s proof that the international flavour of this show is on the upward curve.
As well as top brands in the hunting sector, you can also expect to find products and contacts within hunting tourism, hunting dogs, target shooting, shooting accessories, technical clothing and shooting accessories. The show also has a special HIT Arena – a space within the show that is open to the public and a place where people can attend presentations about the art of hunting and hear from many important celebrities and stakeholders within the sector.
The show also seeks to champion and encourage product innovation within hunting and shooting by hosting a special Outdoor Awards at each edition. Exhibitors can enter their new products into a special viewing area of the show and winners will eventually be chosen by voting by the end of the event.
HIT offers a unique blend of letting you get a good feel of the Italian industry and how it works but also offering you the chance to network on an international scale. While the show is still relatively young, it is already regarded by many as the third most important show of its kind globally behind the USA’s SHOT Show and Germany’s IWA Outdoor Classics.