Andrea Ferkinghoff, spokeswoman for the management of the Ferkinghoff International company of Germany, gave an interview detailing the three decades of company history, the development and outlook on the market, and the plans of the Company for the future
30 years of Ferkinghoff: in 2020, Ferkinghoff International GmbH & Co. KG – a well-known, German-based distributor of American firearms and accessories on the European civilian markets – is celebrating its 30th anniversary; the Company was established by Achim Ferkinghoff as “Waffen Ferkinghoff” in 1990, as a small firearms retail company.
Since then, Ferkinghoff has earned a well-established position on the European markets; we reached out to Andrea Ferkinghoff, the official spokesperson of the Company, to have a talk about the history of Ferkinghoff, its development, and its plans for the future.
You have just renamed Waffen Ferkinghoff! What were your reasons for this?
With the rebranding to Ferkinghoff Internaional, we as a distribution company are also signaling our strategic orientation to the outside world. This underlines our previous positioning and furthermore, we use it to define further development opportunities – as an importer of successful US brands, also across the areas of weapons and accessories.
Where does Ferkinghoff International want to develop?
Nowadays, we supply well-known and profitable US products to weapon retailers for sport and hunting, outdoor and security. In addition to long and hand guns, we have extensive accessories that can be used to tune, optimize, maintain or even transport weapons.
Many of our products are also interesting for other areas, such as leisure and general merchandising. Additionally, there are interesting optics in the porfolio, e.g. can be used for bird or animal observation or a wide range such as bags and backpacks for hiking enthusiasts and for female target groups. A porfolio that is now also reflected in the new company name. The goal is to expand existing target groups and the porfolio and thus address related industries.
What challenges did Waffen Ferkinghoff face 30 years ago?
The start was anything but easy. Achim Ferkinghoff opened his retail company in his home in 1990 as a newcomer to the industry. The enthusiastic marksman linked hobby and profession. Many legal questions and exams had to be passed and passed.
Since then there have been many changes, weapon law amendments and the necessary market adjustments in all aspects of sporting and hunting shooting.
The large-caliber associations grew and the shooters were thrilled by new disciplines. For the founder Achim Ferkinghoff, shaping these developments positively was always in the foreground. These developments were often associated with restrictions that had to be overcome.
From the beginning, the subject of US weapons was a firm focus of the entrepreneur. In 1996 Ferkinghoff started his first shot show visit in order to establish personal contact with US suppliers. The focus on the specialist trade was then very quickly
defined, because some brands were already found in the company's offer at that time, such as the Desert Eagle and Millett optics.
How do customer needs differ from then and now?
The needs of the trade and resale have changed fundamentally in the context of digitization and the continuous tightening of arms legislation. Today, retailers operate online and offline and aspects, such as fast delivery, comprehensive advice and support, pose new challenges for our team. Our task as an entrepreneur is to consistently align the competence of our employees along with the ongoing changes.
You joined the operative business at the beginning of 2001 and consistently brought your marketing expertise to bear. What has changed since then?
A lot – because Ferkinghoff is no longer just a name, it is an established brand.
The one-man company grew step-by-step in all respects: The product portfolio was continuously expanded with modern and interesting US brands. The beginning of digitization in this segment was the focus of marketing from the start, and the
number of employees grew. Ferkinghoff's external appearance has also been modernized. A first relaunch of the online presence also included its own specialist retail area in the shop, which was very well received and is now at the heart of our digital sales and thus of our further development.
The space requirement of the company grew in connection with exclusive cooperation with other successful US brands. This was followed by the next milestone in the company's history with the purchase of today's company headquarters.
In 2013 the new, larger business premises - formerly a bank – was acquired after extensive renovation work. With over 1,200 square meters of storage space and sufficient office space, Managing Director Achim Ferkinghoff gave the signal for further expansion.
All of the company's important positions were always and still are occupied by the family. While I am responsible for marketing and sales, daughter Angelika Ferkinghoff – who lived in the USA for a while – is responsible for purchasing, and son Alexander Ferkinghoff controls all import and export issues. Achim Ferkinghoff controls the wholesale business and stands for the strategic direction. We are supported by all of our team members, who actively shape the company's success with their expertise.
You are a family company with tradition! What have been the more difficult phases in the past years?
As a new player in an established market the first step was to establish contacts, establish networks and to explore and understand the American mentality and supplier philosophy. For everyone involved, that meant learning, learning, learning.
In addition, we always wanted to manage growth on our own and had to find the right partners. Last but not least, the knowledge transfer of our US products had to be implemented in the European markets and for our retail customers. There topics were and still represent major challenges.
What is particularly important to you in your business?
With our comprehensive, yet specific US product portfolio, we supply international markets today - depending on the brand as an exclusive importer. Our German and European specialist dealers are of particular importance, with whom we maintain
professional and efficient contact at all levels: online in the specialist trade area, by telephone and in person via the largest industry event – the IWA in Nuremberg – depending on how it is requested and how much advice our specialist dealers need.
Friendship have developed with many over time.
We give great importance to marketing our brands with heart and mind. You can only convince the customer if you are convinced of the product yourself.
What can visitors expect from your booth at the 2020 edition of IWA, in Nuremberg?
In 2005, Ferkinghoff presented its first products at a small 20 sqm booth at the IWA with iconic guns like Desert Eagle, BFR Revolver or Freedom Arms. At this year's IWA, Ferkinghoff International is presenting itself on a nearly 300 square meter booth with existing and new US partners and products.
Our customers and visitors expect extensive product presentations from new suppliers, which we have recently started a business cooperation. There are: O.F. Mossberg & Sons, as one of the most renowned suppliers of shotguns and repeating rifles; CMC triggers, known for outstanding drop-in trigger solutions for the AR and Glock platform, along with its subsidiary SOUSA; and the US sights specialist XS Sights, with its extensive repertoire of unique handgun and shotgun sights. All of these partners will be present at the booth along with their products. Other brands such Kimber, Kahr Arms, and Trijicon will also be showcasing new products. We are already looking forward to many visits and interesting discussions with customers and partners in Nuremberg.
FERKINGHOFF INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTES THE FOLLOWING BRANDS ON THE EUROPEAN MARKET: