Angling Direct: The Norfolk success story that has gone from one shop to a £27.4m stock market flotation
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017
When friends Martyn Page and William Hill took over a fishing tackle shop more than 30 years ago, it was supposed to be a hobby.
But the tiddler of a business the pair founded in 1986 has now turned into a whopper – having grown from that one shop in Wroxham to a network of 15 stores across the country and a thriving website which together turn over more than £21m a year.
On Thursday, Angling Direct, based at an industrial unit in Rackheath, will cast off into the London Stock Exchange as it enters the next stage of its growth.
'As business advisers we wanted to roll up our sleeves and understand what it was like to run a business,' said Mr Page.
When the Wroxham tackle shop became available, Mr Page - a keen angler - was hooked right away but the pair were also driven by a desire to modernise the industry.
Mr Page said: 'The way it used to be was that if you knew the owner when you went into a tackle shop you would be okay. If you didn't, they would try to take your money and get you out of the door.
'We wanted to bring modern retail techniques, open displays so you could find what you wanted, but also keep the experiential side – so people can get advice about what equipment to use or who has caught what where.
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'The real breakthrough came with the Aylsham Road store, which was the first angling superstore in the UK.'
The initial public offering (IPO) should fuel further change by raising £9m, with £7.4m going towards new stores and extending Angling Direct's online operations.
Chief executive Darren Bailey said the planned increase in sales from the Rackheath site could see 15 to 20 jobs created over the next 18 months – bolstering the 100-strong team in East Anglia.
He said sales were split 50/50 between online and in-store, while 10% of online sales were going to Europe – a proportion the firm hopes to increase in the next year.
Mr Bailey added: 'I expect it will go a bit more online but this is never a business that will move completely online. Anglers like to feel a rod before they buy it.'
While it has been an exciting time for the company, Mr Page has not seen as much of the riverbank as he'd like. 'It certainly means I don't spend as much time fishing as I used to,' he said.