Fishing Republic eyes up rivals

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Fishing Republic, one of the UK’s biggest fishing tackle retailers, is on the hunt for acquisitions following its float on AIM in June which raised £1.5m.

The Rotherham-based firm has sets its sights on consolidating the fishing tackle market which has around 2,500 independent retailers.

The group’s ​​chief executive Steve Gross said: “There are very few fishing tackle chains. Most are Mom and Pop shops and these are the stores we are looking to buy.

“There are no other PLCs and no-one else is consolidating. As these store owners come to retirement there is no-one to sell to. I’m in a good position having sold to these businesses for the first 20 years of my career.”

Fishing Republic currently has six destination stores in the UK which are over 4,000 sq ft. It has a seventh small store in Hull which will be moved to larger premises.

Mr Gross said he couldn’t say how many stores the group would like to open as it’s commercially sensitive, but the group has ambitious growth plans.

Fishing is enjoying a renaissance following the launch of a number of new TV shows.

“Fishing is showing up on everyone’s radar,” said Mr Gross.

“You now see fishing kit in the supermarkets and there are a number of fishing programmes on mainstream TV. We’ve had The Big Fish Off on ITV and the BBC is responding by putting its own fishing programme on BBC2.”

He added that the younger generation are particularly interested in carp fishing.

“You catch a big fish, take a photograph, put it on Facebook and then put the fish back,” he said.

He was speaking as the group announced a 38 per cent jump in half year profits to £150,000 and a two per cent rise in revenue to £1.87m in the six months to June 30.

Mr Gross said margins improved on the back of better buying.

“We’ve had a terrific start to the second half, which will be even better,” he said.

“We will gradually make announcements on acquisitions. We won’t rush in and overpay.”

​The group is looking to open a store in Birmingham, which has one of the largest angling clubs in the UK​.

Fishing Republic generates almost half its sales online via its own and third-party websites such as Amazon.​ The group is keen to expand its online presence where sales were significantly ahead of last year.

Most online sales ​come from Internet giants such as Amazon and two key objectives for the firm are to increase its online basket and grow the proportion of sales generated by ​its own websites, www.fishingrepublic.net and​www.yorkshiregameangling.co.uk.

The group’s own websites now account for 20 per cent of online sales, up from 10 per cent last year. The two websites have over 18,500 different products. Its specialist site, www.yorkshiregameangling.co.uk, supplies game and fly fish​ing tackle.

The group is also keen to expand its range of own-brand products, which is seen as a growth area. They currently contribute​ ​20​ per cent​ of annual ​g​roup sales ​and the firm said it already has cost​-​effective third party manufacturing well established in the Far East.

The ​g​roup’s ​profits tend to be seasonal with higher margin products​ ​sold in the warmer spring and summer and lower margin items sold in the colder autumn and winter months.