After a year of uncertainty due to Covid, shoots are receiving bookings, and even more importantly, prompt payments for the coming season
I have been chatting to friends who let days and run shoots commercially, and others who manage small syndicates and run shoots of their own and, to a person, they are feeling extremely confident about the coming shooting season. Shoot bookings 2021 are up, most are pretty close to being sold out and any spare guns that were floating about in syndicated shoots have already been taken.
Shoot bookings 2021 – a big change
Last season, there was an understandable reluctance by some to part with their deposits and confirm bookings early on due to the COVID-19 pandemic but to date, this year seems to be almost the complete opposite. There appears to be pent-up demand for shooting, with everyone keen to get back out. People have really missed it and, I am glad to say, they have proved the doubters wrong and not decided to do something else instead.
A friend who bravely took on the sporting lease of his estate when the syndicate folded a few years ago confirmed this. He sent letters and suggested dates out to the people on his client list at the beginning of February as normal, and received an avalanche of replies almost immediately. There was no trickling in of responses and chasing with follow-up letters this year. Nearly all of those who replied were confirming days and the majority were offering to pay their deposits straight away. Something that is extremely important for shoots, regardless of size, because they don’t run themselves and suppliers and wages need paying no matter what.
Bank balances better
He and others who I have spoken to were also pleased to report that as of 1 May, most of the earlier bookings and promises of deposits had materialised, and that bank balances were looking far better than they had been for a while. After a tough year last year — and for most shoot suppliers no small amount of bad debt to chase up — the suppliers are being more cautious about credit. Which, in itself, could cause a few problems for the shoots who accepted bookings and deposits last year, on the promise that the deposits for any unshot days would be rolled over to this year.
Regardless of size, shoots use their spring and early summer deposits, and the first payments of the syndicate subs, to run the things up until the final payment date, or the payment of balance on shoot days. Running a shoot on reduced credit — and starting with less in the bank anyway — is going to be tough. Even the larger concerns are going to take a couple of good years to get back into the black. Poor or breakeven years will set the timeline back even further, and I am hoping they will not send too many to the wall.
The bigger feed firms will no doubt be able to absorb any bad debt for now and be able to rearrange credit agreements between shoots and themselves. Smaller firms, which tend to have more personal relationships with their customers and have hitherto agreed longer credit terms related to shoot dates and sporting calendars, will undoubtedly be struggling as well. Suppliers are in the catch-22 position of having to decide whether they extend their credit and hope the shoots stay afloat and start to repay what they are owed, or cut their loses and start proceedings to try to recover what they are owed. This is an almost impossible task if a shoot closes and there is no one to claim from.
Shoots, though, are quite rightly tightening up their credit systems as well. And about time too.
Smaller and less well-established shoots have always been chasing customers and relying on the last few days of their season to make their profit, or cover costs. Now they too are asking for deposits and stage payments instead of relying on a handshake or someone’s word. That is a shame in one sense, but very wise if you are trying to run a business and need to earn a living. The issues that shoots and estates have faced over the past year have been no different to those any other sector has had to deal with. But it is good to know that the shooting community has stuck together, is on the whole working things out between themselves, and that things are looking very positive for this season and the foreseeable future. Long may it continue.