Shooting for business success
Jason Powell, Graham Higgs and Mike O'Sullivan
The longbow has a distinguished history, becoming a weapon of war following King Harold's defeat at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. During the 16th Century, societies dedicated to the bow and arrow emerged to satisfy the demand for competition, with modern target archery dating to the 18th Century. The Society of Archers at Scorton was formed in 1673 and its annual tournament for the Antient Silver Arrow is still contested today.
Thanks to an increasing global interest in archery, The Longbow Shop on the Wirral, Merseyside, is on course to be the largest traditional archery shop in Europe.
I became hooked on the sport from the first time I shot an arrow with a traditional English longbow - I was smitten. I was a graphic designer for 25 years and started The Longbow Shop in May 2011. I had been making arrows for some time and selling them on eBay and it was becoming busier and busier. The business is self-funded and has been 'a massive learning curve'. We didn't have any business help. It is all self-taught and self-learned.
The business has grown rapidly during the past four years and is a genuine family business – Graham is my brother-in-law and Mike is my father-in-law. Both Mike and Jason are fellow Directors and also Archery GB coaches.
Fellow director Graham Higgs said, "My family is from a retail background in fruit and veg, but I can translate things like sales and service to something like this. It is about service. People get greeted with a cup of coffee and you can stay for up to four hours. You have to make sure they get the right bow for them that is not going to go bang on them or hurt them."
We now employ eight staff and our turnover is set to hit £400,000 this year (more than double the previous year's £180,000 figure) with exports accounting for 60% of its revenue.
Deputy Lord Mayor of Liverpool
We operate from a 3000sq ft showroom in Birkenhead and regularly ship to customers in the UK and internationally, including Canada and Uzbekistan. While many customers visit the showroom, our e-commerce website has enabled us to continually reach new customers.
The company also has a shooting range at its headquarters which is where the idea for a separate events arm of the business developed. Longbow Events offers a range of archery-based activities catering for businesses, community groups, schools and private parties.
There are a number of reasons why traditional archery is increasing in popularity. We are definitely seeing more customers with a business background looking for a release from the pressures of corporate life, while celebrities such as Theo Paphitis, Shane Ritchie and James Whale are big devotees of the sport.
Our customers range from teenagers to people in their 80s. For some it is their downtime, a chance to empty the mind, while for others it is the appeal of the hunter-gatherer, the heritage and the sheer romanticism of traditional archery.
Hunting plays a big part in the overseas market and it's quite amazing how many Americans like a traditional English longbow.
The shop's stock is all hand-made by artisans and all their bowyers are self-employed English bowyers. A beginner's bow starts from £85 and a proper English longbow can go up to £800.
Longbow Events aims to build on the increasing popularity of archery by introducing everyone from seven upwards to the sport through different activities. These include Archery Tag, a combat archery sport that can be played indoors or outdoors; Hoverball, an inflatable archery range that can be set up anywhere; Archery Have a Go, the chance for groups and private parties to have a longbow taster; and Beginners' courses in which individuals can learn how to shoot competitively.
For ore information, please visit: www.thelongbowshop.com