The journey of our business takes us back to the inception of John Rothery & Co. Ltd. – a collection of four retail gun shops established by John Rothery in Portsmouth, Egham, London and Stirling, Scotland. Later, a fifth retail store joined the fold in Leeds, marking the initial steps of our enduring legacy.
In 1971, the foundations of John Rothery Wholesale (JRW) were laid with the acquisition of the
wholesale operation "Singlepoint." Initially envisioned to serve five retail shops and expand
the network by twenty outlets, the complexities of managing remote retail chains became evident.
The burgeoning sales to external retailers began affecting supply to our own branches. Thus, in
the mid-1970s, a pivotal decision was made: to close retail stores and focus wholeheartedly on
the wholesale endeavour.
Shena J Lay, Sales Director and lifelong partner of founder John Rothery, led the transition by closing the last retail stores. Seamlessly, she assumed leadership, shaping JRW into a partner attuned to retailers' needs. Her firsthand involvement in the gun trade played a vital role in connecting us to the retail community.
In 1980, recognising the surge in retail customers, the introduction of in-house telephone sales representatives ushered in a fundamentally new mode of working that established the foundation of our operation today. This adaptation catered to the growing pace of new retailers joining our network, reinforcing our commitment to evolve.
The year 1987 saw JRW transition from its initial 2,000 sq. ft. location in Portsmouth to a more expansive 5,500 sq. ft. premises in Petersfield. This relocation set the stage for remarkable growth, providing room for an expanded workforce and an increased warehouse capacity, which enabled our product portfolio to grow.
In 1988, the name “Bisley” was officially registered with the Patent Office. This marked the first steps of a brand that would go on to become synonymous with excellence and reliability in the shooting and outdoor industry. Over the years, the Bisley brand has grown to encompass a wide range of shooting products, building its own legacy and earning the trust and respect of the trade.
Fast-forward to 1999, a year that marked yet further expansion. The company's momentum was undeniable, prompting the need for more space. A 5,000 sq. ft. warehouse was seamlessly integrated into the existing Petersfield location.
The growth of our business was paralleled by a series of crucial acquisitions that underscored our commitment to expansion and excellence. In November 2000, the company procured Parker-Hale Ltd in Birmingham, smoothly merging their operations into the Petersfield premises. The year 2000 also saw the introduction of Barnett to our product line, the original pioneer of the modern-day crossbow and slingshot. These moves not only broadened our scope but also consolidated our position as a multifaceted industry player.
Our journey continued to evolve over the ensuing years, characterized by sustained growth and key decisions. In 2004, the company secured the esteemed distribution agencies of MTM Case-Gard and Birchwood Casey for the UK.
In 2008, we ventured into new horizons, acquiring the intellectual rights and assets of David Nickerson (Tathwell) Ltd. With this addition, all stock was efficiently relocated from Lincolnshire to our Petersfield base. We also proudly accepted the mantle of being the official distributor of Aigle boots to the gun trade. Aigle's renowned craftsmanship and dedication to excellence resonated with our own principles, further enriching our offerings and solidifying our position as a trusted and quality supplier in the industry.
The pages of our history are marked by both triumph and sorrow. On the sombre note of May 31st, 2011, we mourned the loss of our founder, John Rothery, whose passing left a profound void. His enduring motto, "We eat by the courtesy of our customers," remains etched in our ethos, a timeless reminder of the principles that guide us to this day.
As our journey of growth continued, spatial constraints once again became apparent. In September 2011, Bob Rothery, our then-Managing Director, undertook an essential move: he acquired a sprawling 32,000 sq. ft. warehouse and office building in Waterlooville, situated near Portsmouth. This momentous step alleviated the challenge of space and set the stage for a new chapter. In February 2012, the company found its new home in 'Rothery House,' a place that has since become the heart of our operations.
The year 2018 brought transformative developments. We were awarded the exclusive Umarex agency
for the UK, heralding the sudden introduction of numerous new product lines. Swiftly, these
additions found their place in the JRW trade catalogue and website, as our dedicated team
orchestrated a considerable integration. Concurrently, the pursuit of progress occasionally
necessitates difficult choices. Our acquisition of the Umarex agency led to the parting with Air
Arms, concluding a business association that spanned more than two decades.
In the same year, a new chapter was written with the arrival of Sean O'Driscoll, our present Managing Director. Joining as an area sales representative covering the south of England, Sean brought with him over two decades of experience in the gun trade. His journey had seen him at David Hall Publishing, a company specialising in publications within the shooting, fishing and outdoor markets.
The year 2020 unfolded against the backdrop of unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19
pandemic. Undeterred, the JRW team demonstrated remarkable resilience and adaptability, forging
new ways of working and navigating the hurdles with determination. This spirit bore fruit, as
our record-breaking sales in our 50th year bore testimony to our enduring commitment to our
Building on this legacy, Sean assumed the role of Managing Director of JRW, entrusted with a clear directive: to steer the company towards growth and expand its horizons.
The year 2022 represented a remarkable milestone, ushering in the largest wave of product launches since the introduction of Umarex. A diverse array of brands, including Feinwerkbau, Carl Walther gmbh, Gehmann, SAK, and A-Tec, among others, now grace our catalogue, enriching our offerings and reflecting our enduring commitment to delivering excellence.
Our trajectory of growth remains steadfast. A testament to this is the recent acquisition of
Bisley Sports Wholesale, a distinguished supplier of competition shooting products. This step
signifies a landmark achievement for both entities, representing a convergence of shared values
and a commitment to mutual advancement. John Rothery's growing stable of owned brands positions
us uniquely in the market, meeting needs and budgets across the whole spectrum.
With unwavering dedication, looking forward and building on our solid foundation, our purpose is resolute. With our established Brand partners we look ahead to tirelessly serve our growing base of retailers and nurture our staff as we continue to support the growth of our industry.