Doing business with the UK
A well-established market with a long tradition of shooting and hunting, the UK presents many business opportunities. Gun Trade World is on hand to help you navigate the good and the great of the British trade.
The United Kingdom is home to some of the best-known prestige brands the gun industry has to offer. Names like Purdey and Holland and Holland have a rightful place in the collective minds of shooters as some of the best of the best that the industry has to offer. But the British gun trade is about much more than premium brands – it is a vibrant market, full of depth and innovative companies, all established against a background of great history and tradition.
The largest sector of the shooting market here is shotguns, representing roughly 30 per cent of all sales – perhaps those aforementioned prestigious brands helped create this scenario. Shotguns are also the leading market sector because so much of British shooting is conducted with them – they are used for almost all gamebird shooting, including well-regarded species like grouse and pheasants. Shotguns are also widely used at shooting clubs and grounds around the UK for clay pigeon shooting, which has its own pool of dedicated shooters, and provides excellent practice for those intending to shoot game.
Second to shotguns is most probably the airgun market. Airguns are very popular in the UK, both for shooting small pest species such as pigeons and rabbits, through to target shooting. They account for roughly 20 per cent of all gun sales in the UK and are further boosted by the fact one does not require a licence to shoot one, so long as it is below a certain power.
Rifles are also present in the UK, but because of the country’s small size and limited areas where you can use them for activities such as deer stalking, they occupy a smaller, but stable part of the market.
Besides these, the UK has a strong market for outdoor clothing, optics, night vision, ammunition, accessories, and also a growing airsoft industry.
In terms of the setup of the British industry, there are still many high quality manufacturers. After the premium shotgun names, there are several well-known ammunition manufacturers such as Eley, Gamebore, Hull Cartridge and Lyalvale. There are also several very reputable airgun producers such as Daystate, Air Arms, BSA, and Brocock to name just a few.
Wholesalers and supply companies are also plentiful in the UK market. Some of the big hitters include ASI, GMK, Viking Arms, Edgar Brothers, SMK, Highland Outdoors, Browning, RUAG, Range Right, John Rothery Wholesale and Armex. Many of these have exclusive distribution arrangements with international brands and all of them know the retail market intimately.
The British gun trade once had its own trade show, the Tackle & Guns show, but that is sadly no longer. There are, however, several very good consumer shows and exhibitions that would be a great place to start if you wanted to get a true feel for the makeup of the UK market. One such event is the annual Game Fair (www.thegamefair.org), which takes place at a different stately home around the UK each year. The 2020 edition will be at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire from 24 to 26 July, and is always a huge celebration of the countryside, shooting sports and other outdoor pursuits. A large number of gun companies exhibit at the event on the famous Gunmakers’ Row.
In the north of the UK another successful and buoyant show is the Northern Shooting Show (www.northernshootingshow.co.uk), which takes place in Harrogate in Yorkshire from 8 to 9 May in 2020. This show is also well supported by the trade in terms of exhibitors and covers a multitude of product types including shotguns, rifles, airguns, optics, nightvision, clothing, accessories and much more.
Legislation and associations
The legislation on guns in the UK is well controlled and some might say fairly strict, but it is not overzealous to the point of restricting people or putting them off shooting sporting pursuits.
For the most popular type of gun owned in the UK, the shotgun, shooters must apply for a shotgun certificate, which can be done with their local police force. A firearms officer from the local police will assess the applicants suitability to own, use and store a shotgun, which will include a home visit to inspect how the gun with be housed. Shotgun owners may own as many guns as they like, but they must all be listed on the shotgun certificate. It is the right of every citizen to own a shotgun certificate unless the police believes there are grounds not to (if the applicant has been convicted of a violent crime, for example).
For rifles, applicants need to obtain a Section 1 firearm certificate, which enables the holder to possess only the exact calibre, number and type of rifles specified on it. Police must assess that Section 1 certificate holders have what UK law calls ‘Good Reason’ to own a weapon covered by it. It also means that police must grant permission for the sale of guns covered by Section 1. Police reserve the right to conduct background checks on individuals applying for Section 1 licences, including medical history.
Airguns are another popular gun type in the UK and once an individual is over 18 there are no real restrictions on the purchase, possession and use of an air weapon with less that 6ft-lb of energy for pistols and less than 12ft-lb of energy for rifles. The main condition is that you must have permission of the landowner where you plan to shoot with an airgun.
In terms of associations and organisations that help ensure the smooth running of the shooting and hunting industries in the UK, there are many. One of the key trade-only bodies is the Gun Trade Association (www.gtaltd.co.uk), the UK’s main recognised body that protects and promotes the industry at all levels. It was founded more than 100 years ago, back in 1912, and now has about 700 members from all areas of the legitimate sporting, recreational and professional gun trade in the country. The Gun Trade Association also helps British companies exhibit at international exhibitions such as SHOT Show in the United States and IWA in Germany. It is a great point of contact if you are looking for a British company to do business with.
Another key body in the shooting industry here is the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, or BASC (www.basc.org.uk). This is a membership organisation that members of the public can join and it aims to promote and protect sporting shooting and the wellbeing of the countryside in the UK. It is known as the voice of shooting and gets involved in issues such as wildfowling, game and rough shooting, deer stalking, target shooting, air gunning, pest control, gundogs and the protection of habitats.
For those who prefer their shooting to focus on targets, there is the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association, or CPSA (www.cpsa.co.uk), which was established to manage the sport of clay target shooting. Presently it has more than 25,000 members and about 400 shooting clubs and grounds associated with it. This organisation can help people obtain shooting classifications and is also the route to being selected for the England and Great Britain national teams for this discipline of shooting.
The UK also has its own National Rifle Association, more on which can be found at www.nra.org.uk.
There’s no doubt that the UK could be a potentially lucrative market for both import and export – even with the uncertainties over what will happen with the country’s eventual withdrawal from the European Union. The brands of the UK are strong and well regarded and its wholesale and distribution companies do excellent and thorough work, whilst also looking to build long relationships.
Shooting is also well protected and defended by a network of long-standing organisations and bodies who have the power to lobby the government on important issues.
You could do far worse than to investigate the possibilities that the UK market offers.
Dialling code: +44
Currency: Pound Sterling
Prime Minister: Boris Johnson
Official language: English
Economy In Focus
One major issue has dominated the UK economy over the past few years, the dreaded ‘B-word’: Brexit. Since the referendum in 2016, where 52 per cent of the voting British public declared they wanted to leave the European Union (EU), the UK economy has been in somewhat of a state of flux. The value of the British Pound took a nosedive immediately after the result of the referendum, but recovered well up to around mid-2018. However, the recent change of Prime Minister to Boris Johnson and the increasingly likely possibility that the UK may leave the EU without a deal, has dealt damage to the currency once again.
Despite the distraction of Brexit, the economy in the UK is a strong one and has shown several very positive indications in recent years. Unemployment is at very low levels, some of the lowest the country has ever experienced, consumer spending and borrowing has remained relatively stable and secure, and inflation is also on track with predictions and aims made by the Bank of England.
The economy in the UK is thought to be about the fifth largest national economy in the world according to gross domestic product (GDP), it is also the 10thlargest goods exporter and fifth largest goods importer. The service sector is the dominant one in the UK with around 80 per cent of GDP accounted for by it. It is a huge financial centre with London being one of the key players in this international market. In fact, 26 of the world’s 500 largest companies are headquartered in the UK.
The UK economy is also boosted by some North Sea oil and gas production.
Much of the UK’s position in world standing has been achieved by its early development and enterprising people. However, much of its future will be defined by what type of exit from the European Union it makes and how well and quickly it recovers from any possible negative side effects.
GDP per capita: US$45,500
GDP growth rate:2%
Top export partners: USA, Germany, Switzerland, China, France, Netherlands
Top import partners: Germany, China, USA, Netherlands, France, Belgium
Estimated number of firearms licences held: 700,000
The Industry View
Products:Manufacturer of a comprehensive range of scope mounts and accessories
“The hunting and shooting market is perhaps not as strong as it was two years ago, but this is inline with Europe and most of the world. Trade is hard but with the right marketing companies can remain pretty busy. One of the main potential growth areas is high-end PCP air rifles and centrefire rifles. The biggest challenge we are facing is the same that is facing all trades – Brexit. It has a lot to answer for. It would be interesting to know how much of the recent decline is down to Brexit.
“Overall, we Brits are very trustworthy people that are easy to deal with.”
Products:UK Manufacturer of precharged airguns, Daystate pioneered modern PCP airguns
“One of the biggest opportunities in the UK market at the moment is in airguns. Low-end and high-end airguns – sales seem to be buoyant.
“Daystate helped create modern PCP airguns, which now account for a big share in the airgun market. Some 40 years ago the company’s founders introduced the modern precharged airgun format. Our aim is to continue to innovate, especially in the continued development of electronics.
“Like many other nations, the main threat to the market here in the UK is unwanted and unnecessary legislation. But, in an unstable world, the UK market still presents a healthy and consumer-focused market with sales figures only really second to the USA, yet usually commanding a better price and with far fewer logistical problems.”
Products:Specialist PR agency for the global outdoor leisure and countryside lifestyle sectors
“The UK market is buoyant with lots of opportunity. We are receiving an increased number of new business enquiries compared to previous years. British brands are now totally on board with PR and understand how effective properly thought out campaigns can be. It is an increasingly competitive market so it is vital brands have an edge, and PR gives them the opportunity to communicate with end users on another level. I see our biggest growth with established brands from outside of the hunting/shooting sector wanting to reach our niche audience.
“We are continuing to expand in the US. Tweed Media’s USP is helping American brands penetrate the UK and European markets and vice versa. We are currently pitching to some well-known household brands that I hope to announce as part of our portfolio very soon.
“The biggest challenge is public opinion. We need to do a better job at educating the masses about what we do and why.
“The British workforce is hardworking and extremely professional, and consumers are switched on and engaged with brands.”
In the crosshairs
The UK’s major agricultural pest bird, the humble wood pigeon is one of the most popular species to hunt in the UK thanks to its abundant numbers, the general licence that allows you to shoot it all year round, and also the excellent meat it provides. Decoying is one of the most popular methods for targeting these birds, as well as flighting and roost shooting. Shotguns are commonly used to shoot wood pigeons (using non-lead shot where required) and they are also hunted for with airguns in the UK, making this a more accessible and affordable type of hunting for all.
Hunting season: Year-round
A coveted species among British and international hunters, red deer are the UK’s largest land mammal and fully grown stags can weigh up to 190kg and stand up to 130cm tall at the shoulder. The deer are so-called because of their distinctive rusty red coloured summer coats, which turns to brown in the winter. They have a short tail and very large heads with wide-spaced eyes. The young are spotted, but adults loose these spots as they grow. Scotland is one of the dream destinations to stalk these deer with the scenery just as stunning as the trophy you may hope to take.
Hunting season: England and Wales – 1 August to 30 April (stags), 1 November to 31 March (hinds). Scotland – 1 July to 20 October (stags), 21 October to 15 February (hinds).
Pheasants are another hugely popular game bird in Britain and have been native to the country since the times of the Romans. They prefer wooded agricultural lowland and also moorland where they like to make their nests and rear their young. Their diet normally consists of berries, seeds and insects. Driven shooting is one of the most popular methods to hunt for these birds and there are many privately-run estates in the country where you can do it.
Hunting season: 1 October to 1 February