The Game Fair – back with a bang!

The Game Fair at Ragley Hall, Warwickshire, proved to be a roaring success as it made a spectacular return for 2021.

To almost universal acclaim from exhibitors, sponsors and a staggering 119,378 visitors alike, the event became a true celebration of a return to some form of normality.

Exhibitors revelled in the opportunity to meet customers face to face, many for the first time in almost 18 months, while visitors couldn’t get enough of the chance to get hands on with the latest products, clothing, jewellery, art and much more, not to mention sampling some amazing food and watching a range of demonstrations and talks showcasing the best of the British countryside.

It was a thrilling comeback for The Game Fair which, this year, defied the odds to go ahead once more after last year’s disappointment due to Covid-19.

But all of that was forgotten as the sun blazed down on the first day, brightening an already-stellar showground, with so much to keep countryside afficionados entertained.

As the weather defied all forecasts, to deliver perfect Game Fair conditions, those attending made the most of the occasion to re-engage with friends, colleagues and customers.

Steve Bloomfield, executive director of operations at the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), said: “The show was an out and out success. With so much uncertainty in the lead up, the weekend could not have gone smoother. The BASC presence was huge and the feedback from members and the wider shooting community was superb.”

Constant footfall and growing memberships were especially pleasing elements for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust’s director of communications, marketing and membership Andrew Gilruth.

“This year’s Game Fair felt like the best-ever. As the first large event in 18 months, the opportunity to finally meet and discuss issues and answer questions with GWCT members was long overdue.

“Recruitment was above our expectations and I am not sure I have ever worked at a show with so many optimistic visitors. Not only that, our members were clearly making the most of their day because our footfall was refreshingly constant. The Game Fair team certainly deserve full credit for pulling this one out of the bag.”

Rob Fenwick from E J Churchill, which exhibited and ran the popular Shooting Line, revealed: “The Game Fair was great, I would say from our perspective one of the very best. We had perfect weather for three days and the attendance seemed high every day. Our stand was busy every day and we were really pleased with our sales.

“More than this, it was just great to get out and see everyone and catch up with them after the past year. So many people were just delighted to be out and seeing friends and engaging with brands that they had missed! The Hercules was the star of the show for us and so many people loved handling it and talking in detail to team about it.

“As for the Shooting Line, it was a brilliant success and the team did a great job. The targets were really well received and there was some excellent shooting. The Have a Go stands did not stop from 9am on Friday to 6pm on Sunday and it was great to see so many people trying clay shooting for the first time!”

“So, all in all, a brilliant show, really well run and a joy to be involved with, roll on 2022!”

Edward King, managing director of shooting sports supplier ASI, added: “This year’s Game Fair will no doubt go down as a first step on the long journey towards a return to normal after many months of isolation. The visitors were clearly delighted to be out and about again meeting each other and catching up on news and plans. There was a palpable sense of enjoyment at being free again.”

The Game Fair also saw the relaunch of gunmaking name Charles Lancaster.

Director George Juer said: “The relaunch of Charles Lancaster at The Game Fair was always going to be exciting but none of us could predict the reaction we received. It seems that the reinvigoration of such a traditional name has captured the imagination of both the trade and the public alike. If this is just the beginning, then we cannot wait for what is to come!”

Alice Leet-Cook, co-founder at hat brand Hicks & Brown commented: “The Game Fair is always a really strong event for us and something we look forward to each year but given the year of the pandemic there were so many unknowns as to how successful it would be. Would the footfall be as good? Would people be wanting to shop?

“We actually couldn’t have been more thrilled with how it went, our stand was busy all three days and it was fantastic to finally meet our customers face to face again. We couldn’t have wished for anything better.”

Samantha Brooke, founder at British knitting attire specialist Waring Brooke, added: “It was wonderful to be back on the circuit, seeing customers face to face. The Game Fair was the first show in two years and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome. We met new and existing customers, even had a wonderful couple who travelled from Dorset specially to come and see us!”

While Marcus Janssen, brand director of Le Chameau and Schöffel Country told TGF Trade News: “This year’s Game Fair will surely go down as one of the greats. The wonderfully positive atmosphere and record turnout were testament to how important this annual event is to so many of us and, indeed, the great British countryside.

“Over the past 18 months, Covid has turned many of our lives upside down, and adversely affected many businesses, none more so than our show retailers who have somehow managed to weather this unprecedented storm. So it was really heartening to see their stands brimming with customers throughout the weekend. I know that they are all so incredibly grateful for the support of our wonderful countryside community, and so are we at Le Chameau and Schöffel Country.

“For me, this Game Fair reaffirmed just how important The Game Fair and events like it are for our rural economy and our countryside community, and it also gave me great encouragement to see just how much this way of life matters to so many.”

The Association of Art and Antiques Dealers, LAPADA, had a designated area across two pavilions.

A spokesperson said: “LAPADA was very grateful for the opportunity to participate in The Game Fair this year, particularly after the forced cancellation of so many events due to Covid-19.

“It provided a crucial opportunity to meet new buyers and reconnect with valuable clients after a hiatus of over a year for many of our dealers. Visitor numbers were impressive – topping 100,000 – and many reported good sales and lots of interest in their stock.

“Unfortunately for some, the experience was marred by an attempted theft in the early hours of Saturday morning. The Game Fair reacted quickly to put in additional measures for the remainder of the show – we had lots of positive feedback from members who exhibited and are keen to participate in future events.

“The potential for ongoing LAPADA pavilions was clear with the synergies and profile of the audience proving to be commercially excellent for many.”

The fishing side was also very positive. Scott Mackenzie, of Mackenzie Fly Rods revealed: “This has been, by some way, the best show we have ever done – we couldn’t be more delighted.”

The Canal & River Trust, which was helping launch National Fishing Month by offering free tuition on the lake, was booked solid for each of the three days.

Simon West Director of The Gun Trade Association concluded “ What a fantastic success the Game Fair was this year!  Both the Trade and visitors needed a chance to get back to normal and celebrate together and a great time was had by all.  The Game Fair management team addressed the issues that we had previously raised and it was great  to see shooting take its central role in the Show.  Well done to them.  Onwards and upwards!”

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