ARMEX @ IWA 2014

Posted by Unknown On Friday, March 14, 2014

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by Maree & Keith

ARMEX have released some great quality AEG's into the UK market place in recent times - but nothing in great numbers and supply can sometimes seem a little slow. So we despatched Maree & Keith to find out what is happening over at ARMEX more usually based in Birmingham but displaying at IWA 2014.

Alan Phelps ARMEXUmarex Armex StandUmarex MP7 NavyThe RangeFull Range Display
'One of the pleasures and highlights of this year's IWA Show was a chance to sit down with Alan Phelps, the long time director of Armex UK. Alan decided to enter into the Airsoft Dragon's Den some three years ago. Already a well-established UK firearms dealer, well known throughout the trade, he decided to boost UK Airsoft by putting in over a million pounds to bring what his team would assess as the best of the Umarex product line-up to UK Airsoft, with the after sales support to ensure good value for money.

Alan is very personable who talks from hip, honestly and openly. It is always a pleasure to spend some time with him, sharing in his enthusiasm for both the real steel community and the hobby he still feels he is only just scratching the surface with; Airsoft.

Alan is first to admit that Airsoft for Armex has been a very bumpy road. Umarex, like other major brands or market re-branders, has supply issues due to the batch production methods used for Airsoft production. This has given him issues related to consistency of supply, regardless of how much money he has thrown at the situation. He has also had issues relating to getting Umarex to understand the particular requirements and different nature of the UK Airsoft market. After spending a lot of time on the phone to other members of the industry in Europe, this is a point we discussed for quite some time and could not agree more on!

The issue of the UK market being out of kilter with the rest of Europe cannot be underestimated. The UK is an English speaking country, whilst the rest of Europe speaks various languages, with French and German widely spoken and both cultures a major influence throughout the EU. In the UK, due to language and cultural differences, Airsofters will firstly look at the US scene and Airsoft market and goods, usually way before examining the European scene to any great extent. Therefore, to be ahead of the game, those in the industry have to estimate what the latest US/UK trend is, and ramp up supply to meet the demand. The rest of the EU is not even a consideration. This can be hard for other European countries to understand, as they are used to dealing with European trends, desires and wishes; which are based on many factors outside of US influence. The perfect example of which we, and the entire industry have seen, is with the G36 AEG assault rifle. This rifle is one of the best sellers from Umarex, as several German influenced or bordering states use the weapon as part of their military, or have used the weapon in the past. Therefore, the weapon is a great European seller, for reasons in addition to the fact that it is one of the world's best assault rifles. Germans, and other Europeans, see TV shows and movies or even documentaries illustrating the rifle and how it is used, and who by, and in what situations, which never make it to the English speaking world in any great way. This leads to the situation where Armex has been able to obtain a vast quantity of every version of the G36 but only a handful of any M4 variant. In the UK, on the other hand, the M4 variant is one of the best sellers by far, and probably the largest seller. This mismatch in the marketplace has been one of the major issues that Alan has had to deal with.

For those who have not been to Armex in Birmingham, Alan and his team constructed one of the best Airsoft ranges in the UK and a large area of warehouse for the sole purpose of either storing, distributing or dealing with the support services related to Airsoft. The cost of this floor space runs into the hundreds of thousands of pounds. To put it in terms we all understand, Alan and his team would have to sell over 3000 units, or AEG's of a £300 retail value just to breakeven, and with the wages of his Airsoft team and administration and regulation, this would be upwards of 10000 units. This has been a bumpy road due to supply, the matching of supply to customer expectations, and other reasons I am about to discuss.

Armex Booth - Beretta ARX
Other challenges faced by Alan have been also meant that the road to success as a major Airsoft distributor has been hard and rocky. For example, staffing in any situation is difficult at the best of times. Alan set out to appoint an Airsoft team, that fully understood Airsoft, from a department manager down to warehouse staff. Airsoft being a difficult and peculiar hobby for an outsider to understand, the higher in the department the position was, and thus the more education and experience was required, the harder the position was to fill with someone with industry expertise and knowledge. Thus, Alan moved people across to fill such positions who were experts in their field in the real steel world, and filled the day to day practical positions with members of the Airsoft community.

Getting this mix right has been a trial and error process and has taken some three years. Alan now feels that his current team is ready for the challenges of being a major European Airsoft distributor. We would certainly have to agree that his new team is quite formidable and is placing considerable efforts to match supply to the particular requirements of the British marketplace. To ensure that this occurs, Alan is now directly overseeing or checking each purchase order to ensure that his many years of marketplace experience is the final check on trying to ensure the best match of supply to customer expectations and wider market requirements. To further ensure this occurs, Alan has outstanding and open orders that run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds. He also personally travels to Umarex Head Office to reinforce the particular needs of his market and to constantly request the right product for the UK Airsofter.

When you sit with Alan and he describes his undertaking, you realise the complexity he faces and also the immense assets he is applying to the UK Airsoft marketplace. Alan told me that he expects the process to take another three years until supply properly meets demand, and until he has forced by hook or by crook Umarex into providing the products to the UK Airsoft marketplace that UK consumers want in large numbers. Whilst this process evolves and develops, he has allocated a vast level of financial resources to ensure it.

I left the interview with Alan, agreeing to meet again to assess progress, and with a greater understanding of the respect Alan has for Airsofting. Basically, Alan has put up his personal wealth and business assets to prove it. With all the recent negative aspect to Airsoft dominating the social forums recently, Alan and his team is a good example of the positive aspect to both the industry and Airsoft community. I will happily watch developments and report on them as they progress.

Just as an aside, it is great to see that Alan is waiting on some RoHS compliance results before launching further product onto the UK market. This has delayed the entry of some new products and has caused considerable costs, but once it is completed and shipments are delivered, we should finally see products such as the new Beretta ARX we reported on for the last two years, hit the market. In addition Armex has new products on the way, such as the new IWI pistols! More to come on this one!'

Watch out for more IWA 2014 reports from Maree & Keith.

Reports logged in so Far! - click on the link
Cybergun Update - what's happening for Cybergun Uk wise?
Armex Booth Update - intel from Armex
King Arms Booth Update - New exciting GBB rifles from King Arms
G&G Booth @ IWA 2014 - G&G an Organisation on the MOVE!
Stering SMG - SL MK4 first look - Should you be getting one?

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