MacFarlaine, director of The Sporting Lodge in Cumbria writes about the
changing nature of the serving country sports customers and argues for
a mix of new technology and traditional service.................
When my father, George MacFarlaine, returned from his native India to
England in the early 60s, he was an engineer and a passionate hunter.
This love of all country sports and shooting in particular, led him to
establish his workshop in our attic in our family home in Cumbria – a
county hard to beat for its beauty and dramatic scenery and its wealth
of country sports opportunities.
As a registered firearms dealer, George would travel the length and
breadth of the UK and Europe to measure his customers for their bespoke
shotguns; collect their weapons for repair and even do the odd repair
on site; often with family in tow. Those were the days of face-to-face
customer service – not only for servicing and manufacturing shotguns
but also for supplying the Brady shotgun case, the butt plate and the
Our customers were our friends. They would come to
the house and experience the gun room with its unmistakable smell of
oils and leather and the talk of wildfowling, pheasant shooting and
tales of old countrymen would go on until the wee hours.
From the small attic and the attention given to serving our customers
and creating long-lasting relationships, the business developed
worldwide. Writers, artists, auction houses and police forces the world
over started to contact us for information and advice – gladly given.
It is this attention to helping people; working with the finest
craftsmen and women worldwide and going that extra mile or sometimes
hundreds of miles, that is still appreciated in this hectic world.
There is a tradition of good old fashioned customer service which is
still offered in the country sports trade and it is these companies who
will hopefully survive. People appreciate the time taken to advise and
help them – even if it does not result in a sale. It is much more
satisfying to develop trustworthy relationships. The key objective is,
not only to meet, but to exceed the expectations of the customer.
The electronic age has transformed the way we and the vast majority of
country sports trade do business. It has transformed the shopping
habits of the consumer and no doubt raised their expectations (sorry
Sir, I can do a three day delivery to New York but not next day unless
I get on that 'plane). Gone are the days of the local gun shop and
country sports outfitter in every town. We can reach a worldwide market
at the touch of a button with our websites. We can ship our wares to
anyone (shotguns excepted of course) in the world without getting in
the car and driving to Dover! Unthinkable less than ten years ago.
These are exciting times. The internet opens up so many possibilities
for doing business differently. It also poses the threat of the
destruction of the creation of relationships which is what exceptional
customer service is all about. Computers can bring the latest range of
shooting jackets into our homes. They can facilitate that payment and
even the delivery is now electronically enabled. However, they cannot
replace the need for that personal touch and the need for impartial and
friendly advice which is still, thank goodness, in demand in the 21st
Lindsay and her husband John, both keen shooters and
registered firearms dealers, continue to run The Sporting Lodge from
the family home in Cumbria. Since the death of George in 2000 they
uphold the family tradition of personal service and utilise the wonders
of the internet at
The Sporting Lodge is an authorised stockist of James Purdey and Sons;
Beretta; Perazzi; Le Chameau; Brady; Fjallraven and top quality country
clothing and accessories. Contact The Sporting Lodge or telephone +44 (0)15395 63594.