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100,000 new pandemic fishers boost business at Angling Direct

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More than 100,000 new fishers took to the UK’s waterways last year as they escaped the Covid-19 pandemic, helping to deliver bumper sales at Angling Direct.

The company said that the country had seen a 17% rise in annual fishing licences, and these new anglers visited its website – and shops when they were open – in huge numbers.

Revenue from online sales jumped 40% to £35.3 million, the company said, helping it swing to a pre-tax profit of £2.6 million in the year to January 31, up from a £1.5 million loss a year earlier.

But while online revenue has jumped across many retailers during lockdowns, when people were shut inside and shops were closed, most high street businesses suffered.

This was not the case at Angling Direct, which said it had a “flood” of demand in the summer to thank for a more than 15% hike of in-shop sales, to £32.3 million, despite the lockdowns.

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“The large pent-up demand built up whilst fishing was prohibited released with a flood of business from mid-June when stores reopened, whilst our online business continued to grow at pace,” said chairman Martyn Page.

“This proved that demand for well-located physical experiential stores, manned by trained enthusiastic colleagues, remains strong in our sector.”

In the months since January sales are up 54% compared to the same period last year. This included a 42% online and 75% offline boost.

However these figures are partly measuring against a period last year when the pandemic was at its worst, all stores were shut and Britons were confined to their homes.

The business said it is in a good place to grow revenues again this year, but cautioned investors against expecting a repeat of 2020.

“Assuming no further lockdowns, the group is well-placed to deliver profitable growth in revenues, albeit at a lower rate than the prior year as trading conditions and sales mix begin to normalise,” it said in a statement.

The company will focus on Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria this year, which it said were key areas where it can grow.

Chief executive Andy Torrance said: “As the health and wellbeing benefits of angling become more widely recognised and its popularity grows around the world, we are ideally positioned to fulfil our ambition of becoming Europe’s first choice omni-channel fishing tackle destination for all anglers, regardless of their experience or ability.”