Top clay shooter Phil Smith has been keeping your local clay clubs stocked with clays
Phil Smith has been a familiar face on the clay circuit for over 30 years. The Worcestershire market gardener has made the England Sporting team 10 times, and has shot Skeet for England.
A year ago a chance meeting at the British Shooting Show led to a whole new line of business for Phil – and now he supplies Promatic brand clay targets to shooting schools, clubs and grounds all over the country.
“We’re main dealers for Promatic clays,” Phil explains. “Promatic still supplies some of the bigger customers, but we look after everyone else.” Phil’s years of seeing clay targets along the barrel of a gun have stood him in good stead. “I know most of the grounds and I’ve been to a lot of them, travelling round with mates like Carl Bloxham and Arnie Palmer – so often I’m dealing with people I know. That personal connection helps of course.”
Another big advantage in getting the business off the ground was having the premises and handling equipment in place for market gardening – the shed and forklift were already there. “The margins on clays are tight – it’s a very competitive business – so it would be hard to make it work if you had to rent somewhere and buy all the gear.”
Phil offers his customers a quick, efficient service. There is no website, and no published price list – most of his customers just call his mobile phone. If a club runs low on targets over the weekend, they call him on Monday. He can usually deliver what they need by Wednesday or Thursday, ready for the next weekend’s shoot.
Most of his customers aren’t taking massive quantities, just two or three pallets every six months. But Phil is happy supplying in those sorts of quantities.
“Some companies wouldn’t want to bother supplying one pallet here and two there, but it makes no odds to us,” he says. “Most of our business is two or three pallets at a time, but some places will order a full container load, which we supply direct.” The transport is cheaper with a bigger load of course. He uses Palletline to make the deliveries, and finds them reliable and efficient.
It helps that Phil is supplying a quality product. He supplies the full range of every type and colour of clay, from standard blacks up to flash targets. The clays are made by Eurotargets in Italy, Europe’s largest manufacturer of clay targets.
“It’s a state-of-the-art factory where the whole manufacturing process is automated, and the quality is very good,” Phil says. “They produce a lot of eco clays for use on the continent. Those don’t use petrochemicals – we don’t use a lot of them here yet, but I think that will change over the next four or five years.” Customers appreciate the consistency of the clays. One local ground owner commented that with his previous clays, his pick-ups were spread over 20 or 30 feet. “He told me he can now stand in one spot and pick up the lot,” Phil says.
The business has grown steadily over the first 12 months, and continues to do so, although Phil is aware of shooters starting to cut back on their shooting as they tighten their belts. With prices rising for fuel and cartridges, some of his customers say that shooters are shooting one round instead of two or three, or coming every other week.
Perhaps it’s a good thing Phil doesn’t rely entirely on shooting for his income, then, although so far the clay business continues to grow – and with minimal overheads there’s every chance he can remain competitive.
To contact Phil Smith at Clayline, call 07976 302420.