Retailer’s direct approach to getting Europe fishing

UK-based tackle retail giant Angling Direct is on a mission to encourage more people to go fishing, offering customers the best selection of product at great prices with a proper buying experience. As it opens its European warehouse in The Netherlands, CEO Andy Torrance explains the next stage in its plans.

Ever since it was founded by over three decades ago by Martyn Page and William Hill, Angling Direct has been all about improving access to fishing by offering its customers the very best experience, whether in-store or online.

With the aim of providing the widest selection of brands and quality gear at competitive prices, all delivered by knowledgeable, enthusiastic staff, it has grown into a huge concern, boasting 41 superstores (and counting) across the UK, not to mention four international websites, making it one of Europe’s biggest fishing tackle retailers.

Current CEO Andy Torrance is clear that the original principles still guide the business today.

He told TTW: “We know we have a great opportunity to open up angling to new customers as well as bringing people back to the sport.

“Covid-19 was a big challenge but we know it introduced more people to fishing and brought others back. Our vision has always been to change the way tackle is sold, making fishing more accessible with a better offering, both in-store and online, coupled with keen staff who know their stuff.

“And we have seen such a huge growth in our social media impressions and YouTube channel visits as we continue to add content that engages more and more people.

“The whole company has a great passion for getting everyone fishing. Whether it’s in our warehouse, IT, accounting or management, Angling Direct employs a large number of avid anglers, chasing all species, from carp, coarse, predator and sea anglers to fly fishermen. This makes it easy for all our customers to find the right products for them and, most importantly, to enjoy fishing.”

Understandably, the sheer scale of its operation both online and through the continued opening of stores across the UK has led some to question what effect this has on smaller retailers and the market in general.

Andy said: “To be honest, we welcome healthy competition. It’s not in anyone’s interests to reduce the size of the market. We are big supporters of the Angling Trades Association, Angling Trust and initiatives like Tackling Minds, for example.

“We have a responsibility to bring more stability to the market. Contrary to opinion, we aren’t all about pricing – we want to encourage places where you buy tackle in a friendly, family-orientated shop or using the latest digital technology.”

Heading overseas

With such an impressive offering in the UK, it was only a matter of time before it looked overseas and in recent years it has opened up websites covering key European markets such as The Netherlands, France and Germany, among others.

Now, as demand increases, Angling Direct has just unveiled an almost 4,000 sq m distribution facility at its international headquarters in Venlo in The Netherlands.

Andy revealed: “While we have done especially well growing our busines in the UK, we see some huge opportunities to do something similar in Europe, which has also experienced a major boom in fishing during the pandemic.

“We currently have a 50/50 split of our business in the UK between our online and retail stores with around 10 per cent of our business in Europe, so this was a logical step to set up a facility to serve our German, French and Dutch websites.”

This spring it will begin express despatch of a tailored European range across the continent ahead of the start of the 2022 spring season. State-of-the-art logistics will enable more than 15,000 SKUs – 10,000 from its existing range and an additional 5,000 tailored to European customers covering key brands along with its own Advanta offering – to be despatched daily, with many delivered the following day for free.

To further strengthen its position there, late last year it also appointed industry stalwart Andre Akkermans as its commercial manager for Europe, while many of the support and customer service teams speak English, German, French and Dutch.

Andy continued: “Of course, since we are an omni-channel business, there is obviously the potential for some bricks-and-mortar stores in some of our key European markets very soon.

“Just like our websites, these international stores will offer the same fantastic service, improved selection and keen prices. Naturally, we can also introduce country-specific relevant products.”

Moving forward

Having successfully seen off a “significant” cyber attack on its websites late last year, it has even more robust systems in place for the future.

And it seems Angling Direct’s technological breakthroughs are not finished yet. It is about the launch what it believes is an industry-first app that will deliver content and tackle purchases direct through your phone or tablet.

Inevitably, there will be questions about what it does next and the Eastern European market looks like a logical move. Andy won’t be drawn too much on that just yet but he hinted that the global expansion is far from complete. Indeed, he is always looking for new members of the team to add their skills and knowledge to the Angling Direct ethos.

It’s a direct approach that continues to pay dividends for one of the leaders in tackle retail.