As I write, we find ourselves in a very different world from the one we were in at the end of the 2019/20 shooting season, and I hope you and your families are managing to stay safe and well during these unprecedented times.
During February and the majority of March, I was astounded by the level of interest and amount of confirmed bookings entering the diary for the next shooting season. We were experiencing the most interest I have known in over 20 years of selling shooting, and therefore the RBSA was on a bit of a high, until Covid-19 entered the UK. At first it was business as normal, as I don’t think anyone fully understood or appreciated the impact it would have, however it soon became evident that it would be anything but normal. I have experienced some strange and indifferent times in my life, from foot and mouth, bird flu and droughts – but nothing with this scale of impact on our lives.
Shooting estates are in the difficult stage where they need to place an order for their birds from the game farms, and are expected to pay a substantial deposit to secure this order. With the uncertainty of the level of shoot deposits they will receive and their client’s commitment, it makes this very difficult to quantify, in order to make a calculated decision on just how many birds they should order.
Each and every estate have created a policy to suit their shoot and their particular situation and this policy clearly spells out the risk if any, to the clients committing to the shoot date/s. The client can then evaluate the risk and base their decision to carry on, with a clear understanding of what will happen should their day be cancelled as a direct result of Covid-19. These policies vary greatly. In the worst case some estates are asking clients to commit to a non-refundable deposit for the day/s and risk no refund at all, should the day not go ahead. Some estates are offering a partial refund, with a very small handful of estates offering a full refund in the event of cancellation. Most however are offering a rollover of funds, to a day later in the season if possible or a rollover to the 2021/22 shooting season.
It is vitally important that if we are to carry on shooting on these estates in future seasons, we support them as much as we are able to right now. They are committing to the season with some considerable risk and it is only fair that an element of this risk is shared. Estates do need cash flow at this time of year if they are to continue, and without this support from the guns many shoots will not be in a position to continue. We have already seen some shoots moth-ball the coming season and some shut down completely.
Currently, sitting in my home office with my very tolerant family, I am sincerely encouraged by the level of commitment our particular clients are showing to the season. Deposits are coming in and we are still taking new bookings. I would be lying if I said we haven’t lost the odd booking but, all in all, the shoot diary is in pretty good shape.
I would personally like to thank all the estates we work in partnership with for their resilience in creating a solution to make this work and also our loyal and committed clients who are supporting us, the estates, our industry and the rural economy we can all continue to enjoy for many seasons.