Gunning for growth
From a small backroom business, Crediton family firm Ladds Guns has become one of the largest and most influential gun dealers in the UK. KATE WILLIAMS talks to Chris Ladd as the company celebrates its 60th anniversary
Back in 1958, Donald Ladd started up a gun business in a spare room in Mid Devon. Growing from a hobby and interest, Ladds Guns has become one of the country’s top gun dealers.
Despite its humble beginnings in Donald’s Chawleigh home, the business soon moved to Crediton High Street, then in 1997, Donald purchased Downes Mill, a larger premises on the outskirts of Crediton.
Today, the business is run by Michael and Valerie Ladd, along with their children - Chris, Jenny and Nick - all taking an active part in the family-run business, either directly or indirectly.
This year’s celebrations of six decades of trading follow the opening of a second shop and gun room, which launched in September 2017 in South Molton.
Such growth is down to the tight-knit family who pitch in to run it, according to director Chris Ladd.
He explains: “Grandad [Donald] started the business in 1958 from a spare room. With a lot of hard work and a little luck it became the business it is today.
“I have a lot of respect for my grandparents and parents who started and built the business up and I take a lot of pride in being part of something which is greater than its sum of its parts. It is also a really friendly industry to work in, enjoying good relations with our suppliers, customers and even our competitors!
‘We live and breathe shooting and the country life’
“Of course it [family business] can be intense – but it is also incredibly rewarding. We are a close-knit team and always pull together whether it is work or leisure.
As the family firm celebrates its 60th anniversary, Chris reflects on the secret behind its obvious success.
“We are not comparable to most retail shops. The family element has definitely contributed to a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. What is more, between us we rack up hundreds of years worth of experience in our field - something few other shops can offer and one would be hard pressed to find better advice. We live and breathe shooting and the country life.”
With the second premises opening last year, the expansion of Ladds Guns is a real testament to the hard work each member of the family has put in and shows the commitment they have to their customers.
Chris says: “The new premises opened in September 2017 at The Old Sawmill, Filleigh in South Molton to better serve North Devon and Exmoor.
“We offer a full range of shotguns, rifles and air rifles in the gallery showroom which is complemented by some top quality country clothing and selected lifestyle lines including items from Fairfax and Favour, Harkila, Meindl, Seeland, Jott and many more.”
Visitor Centre showcasing the history of the Quay area
Far-reaching estuary views Cyclists!
Start point: Fremington Quay Café. Postcode: EX31 2NH. Grid ref: SS516333.
Parking: The café has its own car park for patrons and there is a public car park just beyond the café buildings
Directions to start: Fremington Quay is 3½ miles west of Barnstaple, accessed off the B3233
Public transport: No buses to the Quay but they do call at nearby villages, such as Bickington and Fremington (see travelinesw.com)
Map: OS Explorer 139 Bideford, Ilfracombe & Barnstaple 1:25 000
Terrain: Well-surfaced Tarka Trail, potentially very muddy field paths and bridleways, lane Distance: Just under 3 miles (4.5km) with additional, optional ¾ mile (1.2km) there-and-back stretch along Penhill Point
Dog friendliness: Good, but animals grazing fields. The café makes its own dog biscuits and allows dogs outside on the platform