A Year of Covid

On January 29th 2020, a student living in York, UK, rang the country’s National Health Service (NHS), the 23-year-old Chinese national, known as “patient B”, reported feeling unwell - suffering from a fever, dry cough and aching muscles. Paramedics responded and soon found out that the student’s mother had not long returned from Wuhan, China – the epicentre of the pandemic. This was the first confirmed case of Covid-19 on UK shores and began what was a rapid and steep infection rate in our small and populous island.

Elsewhere across the globe similar stories would be heard, with each country trying to restrict the spread of the disease. At first there was a sense of panic, initially regarding health of friends and family but then of the wider issue of job safety. How would the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns affect business? Would we have to make cuts? Tell people that they had lost their jobs? Restructure our business? 

“I'm not going to lie, it was one of pure panic,” says Claire West, Managing Director of UK-based airgun manufacturer, Air Arms, when asked of her initial Covid-19 response.

“I was extremely worried. At the initial on-set of Covid-19 back in early March 2020 there was no offer of any financial support for businesses of our size and as the rest of the World, we literally saw our orders come to a halt. We also had the threat of Covid-19 within our own workplace and so with the Government finally announcing the furlough scheme for all businesses, we had no choice but to close. We shut our doors on 26th March 2020 and returned in stages from early May.”

Elsewhere, Rafa Serret, head of Marketing at Spanish firm Bergara was also understandably concerned. He commented:

“Initially my concern was focused on the business. How is it going to affect my supply chain, shipping and demand, but as I saw the scale of the problem and the lives that have fallen in the way, you accept the situation and just look for ways to make the best of it. 

“For us, with distribution in more than 50 countries, the shutdown affected us differently in each country, and we had to be quick to adapt to the different measures imposed in each country. In Spain, where we have our headquarters and production plant, we only stopped for 15 days, although during the rest of the shutdown we were unable to reach normal production levels.”

Despite fearing the worst, the air gun market experienced a sales boom through the summer months, as consumers looked to take up the accessible hobby.

“In one respect, lockdown had a very positive impact on our business, on the other hand, it has been very challenging,” continued Claire.

“When we returned in May, we saw the demand for Air Rifles increase threefold which was amazing. Unfortunately, we have had to address this high increase in demand with a reduced workforce due to staff members self-isolating.

“We have seen a resurgence in our industry which is fantastic and not just in the UK either. Since lock-down was lifted in May 2020, we have seen our production rise significantly, so much so that we have employed 4 additional production staff.

Lock-down gave us the time to stop, pick up the phone and talk to Industry partners. Lock-down also, again, gave us time to stop and think about what we do, how we do it and what we can do better. Zoom Meetings have been brilliant, we will definitely continue using this aid for meetings moving forward and social media has been our life line, ensuring that we are able to actively connected with our community during these unprecedented times.”

2020 was also a strong year for Bergara, with the company becoming stronger in a number of ways.

“It has been a completely different year from what we are used to, we have learned to be more dynamic, to communicate in different ways, to react effectively to drastic changes in our planning,” says Rafa.

“In general, in adverse times we have to learn in almost all aspects and take advantage of these experiences to strengthen ourselves.

“Despite the fact that 2020 was a dark year for the world in general and that people's health is the most important, we are satisfied with the results obtained, not only in economic terms but also in the overall strengthening of the company, in terms of learning, solidarity, adaptability, knowledge... Although it often seems difficult, it is important to always see the good in the bad in order to grow and develop.”

With a huge global vaccination program well underway hunting, shooting and tactical companies from around the globe can now see light at the end of the Covid tunnel.