The Angling Direct team when it joined London Stock Exchange a few years ago. Picture: London Stock Exchange
More than 30 years later, Angling Direct is Britains largest fishing tackle retailer, and has seen like-for-like store sales up by 29.5% in February and March.
Online orders for January and February were up by 27% and the companys German, French and Dutch websites helped European sales surge 66%.
And this windfall of demand has led to the company announcing a destination store opening in Nottingham – a popular fishing area given its proximity to the River Trent.
The destination store is part of an expansion drive that will see 20 new locations open this year and next as the firm bucks the gloom on the high street.
Chief executive Darren Bailey said: We are very excited to have opened our Nottingham store, which is set in a very popular angling area near the River Trent. The location also offers a good number of local lakes which all cover a broad range of fishing disciplines.
As we seek to cater for all anglers across the UK with a new and modern retail offering, we will continue to strategically expand our physical geographical footprint, as well as enhance our online offering in terms of products, experience and education in order to help raise the profile of angling.
Earlier this year, Angling said it expects to post a 39% jump in revenue to £42m for the year ended January 31 thanks to higher sales both in store and online.
Angling Direct has been helped by its main rival, Fishing Republic, collapsing into administration in December after it failed to raise emergency funding.
Fishing gear retailer Angling Direct PLC (LON:ANG) has successfully tackled a challenging retail market, having started the new year with strong sales after a robust 2018.
In recent times, many UK high street retailers have collapsed or been forced to close stores as online competition and subdued consumer spending hurts sales.
Angling Direct, on the other hand, has been expanding. The group opened three stores last year and launched a new store in Nottingham on Friday, bringing its total estate to 27 stores.
Chief executive Darren Bailey said the company has dodged the high street downturn, in part due to the specialist knowledge it provides to customers in stores.
What you tend to find in a niche business like fishing is that people will always have a reason to go in store because they want information on what to buy, he said.
He said another reason the company does well is that is focuses on its niche – carp fishing, which makes up 65% of the business.
Angling Direct revealed in a trading update on Tuesday that in February and March total sales jumped 50.7% compared to a year ago, and like-for-like sales gained 28.5%.
Footfall at stores increased 29.5% on a like-for-like basis while online orders were up 27% during the two-month period.
Bailey said the firm dispatched products to 48 European countries last year, prompting the company to roll out more websites across the region, increase product availability and invest in technology.
He said the company is well prepared for a hard Brexit as most of its products come from Asia and it has a third party relationship in Europe it can rely on if there is an issue with tariffs.
Closer to home, Bailey said the group is looking at opening more stores in UK areas that will bring a potential turnover of more than £1mln.
What I constantly look at is and what we all have to wary of is that retail habits, buying habits are changing all the time, he said.
If we start to see footfall going down in stores, which weve not seen yet, then it might be starting to tell us something.
In-store sales rose 50% to £19.74mln from the year before and were up 6.2% on a like-for-like basis, while online sales rose 30.3% to £22.26mln.
Looking ahead, Bailey said the group is very positive as its new store roll out is on track and online growth has been strong at the start of the new financial year.