Who are HB Canoes & Kayaks? Tell us a little about the company and its history.
HB Canoes and Kayaks is Herefordshire and Borders Canoes and kayaks, a long name which does not fit in forms on on cheques very often but was used because it described the area we aimed to serve.
The company owned by Philippa and Paul Hale started out in 2004 (TEN years ago!) and was basically a farm diversification that spawned from Philippas family connections in the marine, boating and paddlesport sectors. At the time they knew they wanted to do something different utilising the farm space they had, and that was when the seed of a canoe and kayak shop was planted. It was discussed that there was nobody in this area, servicing the paddlers of the Wye Valley and Welsh Border. After a lot of research it was decided that it was a great idea.
The Shop was formed and rapidly grew, within 3 years it had quadrupled in size! Come 5 years down the line and Philippa and Paul decided an extra dedicated member of Staff was needed as the shop was busy and the farm was not getting the attention it should. So along I came (George).
I started whilst at Uni, and used some of my Tech savviness to ease us into the world of E-Commerce and Barcodes. Through to the point we are at today still with load of stock, in spite of the increased competition independent specialists face these days.
Is there one unique selling point you guys want to shout about?
Our size! We are so much bigger than we could be if we moved towards a town or trading estate, this lets us have the Largest number of Canoes and Kayaks on display most of our customers have ever seen (I just wandered off and counted exactly 102 boats all on visible display, this excluded non display boats in the stores). With this going for us we also have the space to let people sit in and feel what they are like side by side.
The location is off the beaten track and it provides a shopping experience of its own, bring your Dog – take it for a walk round our field, have a Picnic. We offer a very casual experience rather than what feels like a shop, being out of the way we dont have passers by wandering in – everyone comes for a purpose and more often than not everyone just gets chatting giving a real intimate feel to the place.
Which product/brand does every staff member have in his or her kit bag?
Palm Multipurpose Jackets – I currently have last seasons Team Jacket which is great for working in the shop, loading and unloading trailers without water flooding up the sleeves on rainy days and also an ideal jacket for Open Boating. I will be getting an Atlas jacket shortly so I can be bang up to date but I have yet to justify it to myself while this jacket keeps on working.
In terms of on the water kit, I have a very mixed bag, Palm Cags, Nookie Cags, Peak and Yak PFDs however my AT Eddy Paddles are the one bit of my bag I love!
What is your best selling product?
The Old Town Discovery 158 Canoe – We sell loads! To families, outdoor centres, schools. It is just a solid all round hard working canoe with a great reputation.
In terms of new products what are your predictions for the next year?
I would keep an eye out on Hou Canoes, we are huge open boat suppliers and the Hou project is of great interest to us. As Royalex disappears, there will only be a choice of PE boats and Composites which have considerable price differences and leaves nothing in the middle. Hou Canoes will grab quite a few customers that would have bought Royalex should it have been available because of their lighter weight but also durable design all at a more friendly pricepoint than Royalex ever was.
The Crossover sit on top will gain ground, as the SOT market has ballooned in previous years, the 1 kayak to do everything demand has grown. Pyranha started it off with the Fusion SOT, Dagger have now followed with the Roam – this will be interesting.
AT paddles will prove to be strong competition for the main stocked brands in shops. Having vanished and undergone a facelift, they are back with some great features and better than expected price points.
Yes, we have a purpose built flatwater lake on site.
What kind of kit do you have available on demo?
Due to the nature of our site, we have gone for differing hull shapes in the demo fleet. We dont have a massive range of different sizes of whitewater boats, as we know that it is not the best demo ground for them. The site is better suited to entry level paddlers trying to decide what is best for them. Demo Fleet details.