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Aug 17, 2015

Talking Shop: Brian Gannon of Gannon Sports in Scotland

Tell us about your shop
We first opened in 1974 as Rapid Repairs to reflect our speciality - racquet restringing. It was meant to be Racket Repairs, but the printer couldn’t read my writing.

My wife Catherine and I were keen racquets players and in those days you had to go into Edinburgh or Newington to get a restring. At the beginning, we balanced restringing with our teaching jobs, but gradually committed to the business full time. We first operated out of a workshop next to our house, but now have four shops in Gullane, North Berwick, Edinburgh and Glasgow. We changed our name to Gannon Sports in 2013 when the British Open Golf Championships were held in our village, Muirfield. 

What’s the secret of your success?

I wouldn’t claim we are a success and, secondly, there’s no magic formula. Like other small sports retailers, we battle our corner against the big boys, work far too many hours and try our best to provide a friendly, honest and knowledgeable service. The fact we have grown is down to sheer hard work, high quality customer care and our combination of racquet expertise with an awareness of the needs of our local sporting communities.

How’s business?
Being a bricks and mortar retailer is getting more and more difficult. We all like to shop on the internet and it’s healthy that there are lots of different retail environments for consumers, but a few of the biggest online retailers are now selling racquets at or below cost price.

The impact is profound. Consumers think we are making huge profits on racquets and our staff spend too much time price matching. Manufacturers need to decide whether or not they wish to have bricks and mortar accounts and, if so, support us and recognise sports retail is about more than the lowest online price or mega discount warehouse.

What are your current bestselling products and brands?
In badminton, we have strong sales of Yonex and Babolat product, which are probably the two leading brands at the moment. Tennis is in turmoil because of internet price wars and none of the manufacturers or their products deserve any mention or credit. Beyond racquet sports, we have strong sales of running shoes, golf and rugby, especially Scotland teamwear.

How do you remain competitive?
Increasingly, our competitor is the internet, both within the UK and beyond, but our customers know we can be trusted, that they can test racquets, receive honest, expert advice and that for the time being our prices are generally close to the internet, though this is impossible when the internet goes price crazy.

How do you feel about the government’s proposal to relax the restriction on Sunday opening hours for larger retailers?
In Scotland we’ve had full and open Sunday trading for many years and I think Sunday shopping is almost a new leisure activity for many.

In relation to England and probably Wales, I hope relaxed opening hours for the likes of Sports Direct, Decathlon and the other superstores will simply dilute their own potential market. The people who want quality product and advice will continue to use independent shops, whether the superstores are open or not.

How do you find out about new products?
We are members of STAG and although we find information provided by them useful, a trend is developing for manufacturers to interact much less with their accounts. For example, we only discovered there’s a new Babolat Pure Aero being launched by seeing it on an internet retailer’s site. There are now too few reps on the ground, too much focus on the big accounts and too many easy sales made to internet companies.

How does the business in your physical shops compare with that online?
The shops are the larger part of our direct sales business, but increasingly we wholesale golf, racquets and rugby equipment to schools, universities and other organisations.

I would never consider being an internet-only trader. I love the interaction between staff and customers and we benefit from our shops being in their local communities. This means we know many of our customers, which makes for a warm, inviting and interactive environment - something the internet cannot provide.

What has been your biggest challenge?
Trying to keep my temper when manufacturers, who are very happy to take orders and payments, don’t want to help out in difficult times. Going forward, I think the biggest challenge to everyone will be the internet.

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Nodor International

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