Steve hopkinson Interview

TOP figures talked exclusively to Tri-Cast national sales manager Steve Hopkinson, whose firm proudly make rods and poles in Britain...

To view the first half of the official interview from the magazine please click here

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Alternatively we have put the full interview below.


How long have you been with Tri-Cast?

I joined as an area salesman ten years ago, but for the past seven I have been promoted to the national sales manager in charge of the angling side of the business. We have an industrial side to our company that has world wide contracts with major companies. Making products for NASA in the space industry, AIRBUS in aviation for the A380 Airbus and for many Formula One race teams to name just a few. It is the use of the special materials we employ in our industrial projects that enables our angling products to be so superior and special.

What does your job involve?

My role for the company is to oversee and control all sales on a daily basis, and to ensure that all orders are processed each day as speedily as possible. I also reply to numerous e-mails every day, from not only retailers but also anglers all over the country who wish to know more about products etc., specifications and availability of products. Lots of enquires are for very old poles, asking for new sections, which we can make provided we can still obtain that same material. There are also adverts and reviews to design and produce and, of course, the website to be constantly updated. The marketing side of the job is a full-time role just on its own.

Keeping a track on production dates and deliveries, and ordering raw materials from all over the world is crucial to maintain a constant flow of products leaving our factory.

It seems that the phone never stops ringing, and you try you’re very best to keep all our customers as happy as possible with supply and delivery of goods. As a general rule we are always on a 3-4 week build time of products, as the business has grown so much in the past 5-6 years that we find it impossible to catch up and get products into stock. During my working week, I also once a week drive over to our rod building factory in South Yorkshire to ensure all’s well and collect rods that are now ready for dispatch. If after all of this I have a day or two when I get the opportunity to escape, I travel nationwide to visit our retail network to see first-hand how trade is and how we are doing out there in the market place. Talking to retailers, and indeed anglers in the shops, gives us a feel for how we are received and how we can improve. There are some bonuses to the job, because I do get to travel worldwide to exhibitions and while sourcing new materials and fittings. Plus the odd times when we need to do product testing. I feel very lucky and proud to have a job working in a sport that I love.

Is it long hours?

My working week is certainly not a 9-5 event. Sometimes I wish it were. My normal day starts at 6am, when I travel 45 minutes to work to beat the congestion. Once in work and supplied with numerous mugs of tea, my hectic day can commence. Lunch - what’s that? That must be the time I grab a sandwich whilst either answering the phone or working at my computer, laptop or iPad. Travelling home varies because many days I will deliver goods to shops on my journey back. There are times when I have to take rods and poles to homes as it is past shop closing times; all part of the service. My arrival time home can vary so much, which is a total nightmare to my family, who haven’t got a clue when I will be in. Hence a lot of my evening meals have to be re heated; thank God for the microwave.

After my evening meal and time spent with family discussing how their day was and how school was and doing their homework, it starts again for me. I get the laptop out and go onto angling forums etc as I do quite a lot of Q & A sessions. I find these fascinating some nights, as you never know what you will be asked next and how you can answer certain things.

There are some things you get into talking about that you just can’t give the right answer to. I had one gentleman the other week having a conversation for over 15 minutes about why quivertips for feeder rods are painted different colours at the end few inches. I spent ages explaining why some are coloured and why some anglers paint their own, but he was having none of it. In the end I got to the bottom of his problem when he informed me he was colourblind. Some you just can’t win.

My long suffering girlfriend, Linda, God bless her, kept a diary one month in which she wrote down the time I went to work, the time I arrived home and then added on the hours I spent at home working. I must admit it came as a bit of a shock when it transpired that I had, in that month, worked an average of 78 hours a week. Christ! No wonder I feel tired some days, but would I change my job? Not a chance.

Is fishing your first love?

I have been in the angling trade for over 30 years now and my love of fishing runs alongside my love of football. As I said before, I feel I am a privileged and lucky guy. Before embarking upon a career within angling I was also involved in my other love, and that is football. At 16 I became a professional footballer, playing for my home town of Grimsby in Division Three. Alas, my luck in this only lasted three years, when a freak training ground injury to my knee meant my playing days were over. Probably one of the worst days of my life, but every cloud has a silver lining as they say and it ended up with me getting a job as a van salesman for a fishing tackle wholesaler.

I never looked back, and my career went ever onwards and upwards as I worked for three other companies, working my way up the ladder, so to speak, until I got where I am today.

Any exciting releases for 2013?

We have launched a few new products, with some match rods and additions to the award-winning luggage range. But our real excitement is our three new poles – two new long poles and a new margin pole. These products have now hit the shops, and the initial reaction has been astounding. In particular our new Flagship pole, The Trilogy Pro 2, is just an amazing product and has advanced pole fishing years.

Even at a price tag of just over £2,000, this product is by far not the most expensive out there, but the word back from the angling Press and the retail outlets is one of total astonishment that the Trilogy Pro 2 just blows the others out of the water in every aspect. After only two months of sales and received orders, we’ve surpassed our predicted sales forecast for the whole of 2013.

This pole is born out of a new carbon and resin structure and combined with years of design and input from our top anglers, giving us a market leading pole for many years to come.

It’s the best pole ever to leave our factory, and if early sales are anything to go by it will not only be the fastest selling pole, but also the biggest selling pole in the company’s history.

Are your products still made in Britain?

Yes. All our designs are done here in-house at our main office in Rochdale. All our rods and poles are hand built here in our engineering factories in Rochdale and South Yorkshire. Our clothing range has been designed by ourselves. It is produced by an outside company, but still within the UK. We are a British company and always will be. We hope that anglers appreciate that fact and will support not only us, but also British engineering and British manufacturing.

How is Tri-Cast doing?

Tri-Cast on both sides of its business is growing at a remarkable rate. It is true to say that in the early few years of this century the angling side was a little neglected, but purely due to a un presidented rise in business and international contracts within its industrial side.

Contracts with NASA and Airbus along with even more work for more and more Formula One race teams had a major influence on the angling side of the business.

At first the effect was of a detrimental manor as the amount of time, effort and resources had to be put into these new contracts and thus the Angling side was left to tick along on its own so to speak. Not totally neglected but not pushed forward as in previous years. As we all know in business you can not afford to stand still, you need to push forward at all times.

This situation led to my appointment to be the companies National Sales and Marketing Manager. My role was to get the angling side back on track and back to the for front of angling where it truly belongs. Not an easy job I must admit and not one that happens over night, but with the help of a great team behind me and the support and backing of the directors slowly but surely things turned around and now we are back up there alongside the other major players in the angling market place.

The second effect from our industrial success has come into play in the fact that we now have at our disposal some very special and unique carbon materials and Resins which are not available to other companies. I have managed to in corporate these space aged materials within some fantastic new designs and this combination has seen a remarkable improvement in our products and there performances across all our ranges. At a time when economic pressures are great and many companies are making cut backs and cost savings, we have been forced to expand.

Last year taking on not only a new commercial unit to house part of our engineering department but also a new storage unit to house our ever increasing stock holding of raw materials etc. People in many working sectors have had their hours reduced, but we have our engineers working long days and at times six days a week. As we get busier and busier then along comes an increase in problems. Not with products but with continuity of purchasing raw materials and fittings and then ensuring that our customers orders are meet and delivered in time. I shouldn’t complain really as it’s a nice headache and pressure to have. I would much rather be sat at home worrying about how the hell are we going to be able to meet the demand, than worrying how I am going to get more orders.

How do you think the overall angling trade is doing?

I do not think that anyone can argue the fact that the angling trade has taken a little dip over the past 2 or 3 years, but that can only be expected in our countries current economic climate. When times are tough and money is short due to ever increasing household bills and expenses, then belts have to be tightened. Unfortunately the leisure and sporting industries are one of the first to suffer. Anglers just do not have the spare funds to go fishing 2 or 3 times a week and therefore they make cut backs. Only going once a week, only buying just what they need, cutting back on the amount of bait they take etc, etc. This I am afraid to say must and will continue up until such time as the country in general gets back on an even keel.

What the future for the tackle trade?

I only wish I had a crystal ball. My job would be so much easier if I could see into the future. Angling is no different to any other industry, and the tackle shop is no different to any other high street shop in the fact that the same patterns are occurring to them all. If you go back a few decades before the times of these large hypermarkets, super stores, and out of town retail parks, the town high streets were king. Every weekend they were full of shoppers and very busy, and this included your local small tackle shop.

Times have changed, and you only have to look at the high streets today. Shops are empty, shops closing down and boarded up, what a great shame. Why is this? Everyone now shops at very large supermarkets, and goes to retail parks, for a one stop shopping experience. Today people just do not seam to have the time to go up and down the high street and in and out of individual shops buying a few items in each shop. Add on top of these changes the influence the Internet has had, and on line shopping and it is very easy to see why the small local tackle shop can find it a struggle. A great shame as I believe we all have a duty to support our local community and our local tackle shop. Just stop and think for a minute, if your local shop closed, where would you go for your bait and every week items of tackle you need. Just because it is only a small average tackle shop doesn’t mean it can’t offer you the best deals and best tackle and I am sure they can offer to you an efficient, friendly and knowledgeable service.

It appears that within the trade, the bigger shops are getting bigger and the small high street shops are fighting to stay in business. But fight they must because as I have said the local shop is needed, but they must be proactive within their business in getting people into their shops, making them come there for a reason and looking after each and every customer. An angler who receives a good deal and gets good service and help will return time after time, and will tell all his fellow anglers too. There is nothing better than word of mouth endorsement to promote your business.

And you’re part of the Angling Trades Association?

I was also privileged some four years ago to be asked to become a Director on the Angling Trades Association board. This is the main organisation within angling which helps the retail trade and promotes Angling through events such as National Fishing Month. I consider this a vital role as I can contribute in my way in ensuring the growth and continued participation of all anglers in the sport.

What age did you get into fishing?

My love of fishing started at an early age of around 7 or 8 years old. Being born and raised in Grimsby, then fishing was the main livelihood of the town as it was a major fishing port.

I can remember both my Father and Uncle taking me on some windswept cold mornings to just below the dock and harbour entrance to fish off the rocks. I don’t think any of us really were experts, but most of the time came back home with something for the dinner table. Happy days fishing with my Dad, and in my mind that is what fishing is about. Great times and even greater memories.  Alas a couple of years later my love of fishing took a bit of a dent.

My best friend at junior school invited me during the school summer holidays to join him on his fathers fishing boat. As we had just finished junior school and going our separate ways with him going to one senior school and myself having being fortunate enough to qualify for grammar school, I thought this would be a great idea. What a big mistake. Wasn’t a normal fishing boat, but his father was a captain of a trawler which went out into the Wild North Sea for a week at a time. Off I went full of excitement only to spend 90% of the whole week green. Never felt so ill in all my life, and was never more pleased to see the entrance to Grimsby docks.

I will never forget the captain’s parting words to me as I left the boat, “I take it you won’t want to come in the winter when it’s rough seas then”. Not a chance I replied. So fishing then turned to coarse fishing around the local lakes and the boating lake at Cleethorpes. I have no trouble with boats these days and never felt ill since that trip. Probably too young for that experience.

And did you get into match fishing?

So from the age of 11 my fishing was confined to odd occasions with friends to local lakes catching the usual specimens of roach, perch, bream, and carp etc. Fishing took a little bit of a back seat due to my every increasing commitment to football. I was very fortunate in the fact that my school had an outstanding reputation for sports and football in particular. On many occasions soccer scouts would turn up unannounced to watch an inter schools or county game. My luck came when I was put forward to attend some sessions at Grimsby Town. I was even luckier when I was taken onto their junior books at the age of 14. This event was tinged with sadness as it was at this time my father passed away and never got to see me play. I hope that I made him proud then, and hope he would be proud of me today.

As I grew up, left school and continued at Grimsby I used to go fishing with one of our top players, Dave Boylan, only a small man but absolute dynamite on the pitch in midfield. We struck up a great partnership both on and off the pitch. He took me under his wing so to speak and taught me so much. To cap it all, his great pastime to get away from everything was to go fishing. So we were not only great team mates but fishing buddies too.


What are your best fishing achievements?

It was a few years ago now, but I received through the post an invite from Ann Freeman to fish the Terry Freeman Memorial Match at Tingrith Fishery near Luton. Terry was Ann’s husband and the person that launched and ran Browning Fishing Tackle for many years. Terry was a great angler and business man and was also the first person to sponsor Bob Nudd. He set up and developed the great London Browning Team and was much loved and respected throughout the tackle trade. Also he took on and developed Tingrith Fishery.

Sadly and very suddenly in the mid nineties Terry died, and this was a great loss to us all. In subsequent years his wife Ann, organised a memorial match at their fishery. 80 of the top anglers, and Browning lads from all over the UK were invited to take part in this event. I was honoured to be one of the lucky anglers considered worthy of participating in this match. A day to remember, not because I won the event, but I did finish in third spot. Fishing amongst many great and top international anglers, I did not let in phase me in anyway and just got my head down and fished my own match. As I said I must have done something right as I came a creditable third and was not that far behind the winner. Most of all the day will be remembered for what it was and what it meant. Great anglers, a great venue and superb day.

Any other major hobbies?

Any other hobbies? Yes but I do not get a lot of spare time. My love of football will always be there and one of the first results I look for on a Saturday teatime is how Grimsby got on even though they are now in the Conference League these days. Not for much longer though as they are top of the league as we speak. My other team and love is Liverpool FC. I have always supported them.

Any angling heroes?

I have so many. Not so much heroes but anglers whom I respect and for different reasons. Top of the list for me are two anglers. The late and great Ivan Marks, who gave me so much help and advice and had all the time in the world to speak to anyone.

The other is the rough and ready Kevin Ashurst. What a fantastic angler he was. This man could catch fish in a puddle. At the same time he was probably the most untidy angler I have every come across. If you stood behind him to watch him fish his peg looked like Beirut on a bad day.

I must include Bob Nudd in my list as I worked with him for many years at Browning in the good old days and his influence on the younger angler was awesome. Wherever he went he drew a crowd and he did so much in promoting the sport.