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Sights set on retail, gunsmithing

Rifle barrel makers True Flite NZ Ltd already export to several markets and are now looking to increase their domestic footprint with a move to retail and more gunsmithing.

Co-owners Grant Lovelock and Anthony Walsh say that given the uncertainty around international freight, the time is right to examine additional markets.

Mr Lovelock said the business had been based in Gisborne since 2007, after moving from Tauranga.

“At that time I had done a life time of machining and engineering anyway, so this was just a natural progression from that,” he said.

“The core business has always been barrel manufacturing. We have worked for government agencies and have supplied New Zealand and Australian international target-shooting teams.

“We had a guy in England, Russell Simmons, who won the world championship with one of our barrels — with an impressive lead over the competition.

“We have also been avid supporters of the target-shooting community and have sponsored shooting competitions throughout New Zealand for many years.”

Countries the company exports to include England, Kyrgyzstan and South Africa.

However, Covid-19 meant the company needed to change how much it focused on the New Zealand and overseas markets respectively.

“We have a client in Kyrgyzstan who actually got Covid-19 himself, and he couldn't even get a travel permit to go to the next town to get on internet banking. So, it took a while for that to come around.

“We had a 40-barrel order for him ready to go pre-Covid and we just shipped it a few weeks ago. So, we've survived but we have had to adapt.

“We're also looking at more product development.”

After being involved with the business for five years, Anthony Walsh has now come on board to buy a 50 percent share of the company with his wife Kalinda in November.

“We had a lot of help from Trust Tairawhiti, who provided us with a business adviser who walked us through the A to Z of buying a business.”

Mr Walsh said the business was now looking to move into retail — from its existing premises in Lytton Road — establish more of an online presence, and also do more gunsmithing.

“So, our main bread and butter is manufacturing rifle barrels — we start with a blank length of steel and put it through our many processes to turn it into a barrel — whereas gunsmithing is when someone brings in a gun that is not working and then we figure out what the problem is and we fix it.

“We will still stick to our core business of manufacturing rifle barrels but we are really excited to branch into the retail side of things because there's only us, Hunting and Fishing and another retail shop for the whole East Coast area, which is a big area to fill.

“So we can see there is a market for it, and that people are keen to support local business.

“We'll start out small and then see where it goes.”

This will involve supplying scopes and other gun parts as well as customising rifles in-house.

“We are updating our website and promoting ourselves on Facebook and other social media platforms so people know what we have to offer. We are also in the process of advertising for an apprentice to join our team.”

With freight orders picking up again, the future was looking good, Mr Walsh said.

DOMESTIC REFOCUS: True Flite co-owners Grant Lovelock and Anthony Walsh are pivoting their business towards the domestic market, as exporting has become more difficult during the pandemic. True Flight has been based in Gisborne since 2007, and Anthony and his wife have just bought a 50 percent share in the business. Picture by Liam Clayton