Low Ground Shooting – Where is it going for 2023/24?
There was a time when Pheasant and Partridge shooting was very predictable, but that has not been the case for the last three years!
William Powell Sporting has a very good handle on the marketplace, and this is allied with our Land Agency Practice which undertakes whole Shoot lettings, as well as advising on Shoot problems across the UK. We have been very busy this year giving advice on Shoot reorganisation, rents as well as the inevitable shooting disputes.
What is increasingly obvious is a gradual change in that marketplace. We suspect that these changes will continue; we have seen quite a few Shoots close, largely because of economic factors, but also because owners/operators have had a fairly bruising time with COVID-19 and then Avian Flu, now followed by massive cost increases. They have therefore been questioning whether it was worthwhile continuing to run their Shoot. Given the marginality of running Shoots for profit, we fully understand the problem. We have not seen for a very long time, good Shoots with days still to let on anything like the scale of this year. I cannot remember the last time we saw driven Grouse days still available to let in June nor high quality Pheasant and Partridge Shoots, some with up to 20% of their days still unlet at the time of going to press. This obviously reflects both people thinking that shooting has become very expensive (which is has) and as a result, deciding to scale back their involvement. We think that this is a continuing trend and as we have discussed elsewhere, the counter to the massive increase in the supply of Game Shooting which we have seen over the last 30 years or so. It was probably inevitable that the constant growth in Game Shooting would find its ceiling, and it is now showing definite signs of retraction.
However, there is still reasonable demand for Shoots which are sensibly priced or seem to provide “value for money” (whatever that might be!), and which deliver a very good product. Once there is a decline in demand in any marketplace, the less good operators tend to suffer the most. Sadly, there have been quite a lot of very indifferent offerings in driven pheasant and partridge shooting in recent years, when demand in the south of England in particular, exceeded supply. Now this is not the case, means that people running Shoots are going to have to up their game. They are going to have to assess whether they are able to run a truly commercial business or whether there is an alternative, perhaps scaling back or possibly closing altogether.
Our advice to Shoots is to look really hard at the economics of what they are doing this year, because we do not believe that it is going to get much, if any better next year either. Costs are in the main unlikely to come down and sale prices have we think, reached a level at which few are able to increase. Many middle-class Game Shots are feeling the pinch and will increasingly do so with the increased costs of mortgages, school fees, additional Corporation Tax and a generally rather difficult small or medium sized business environment. There is nothing wrong with this sort of market adjustment and indeed it was to be expected. The key is to make sure that whatever business model of Shoot you are involved with, is properly analysed and is truly fit for purpose. If you want any help doing this, please let us know.
Article written by: Mark Osborne – JM Osborne Rural & Sporting