There is only one correct reaction to the news that arguably the most important name in British gun making, Holland and Holland, has fallen into the hands of the Italian maker, Beretta and that word is terrific. There will be some crusty old fossils who see this as one more pillar of our gun making heritage crumbling before a foreigner; that a fine tradition of English craftsmanship will now disappear amidst a blizzard of marketing speak and corner cutting. Of course, anyone who knows the recent history of H&H will tell a different story; a tale of a name aimlessly adrift among the luxury brands of its former owners Chanel. Of a company whose most striking achievement in recent years has been its unerring capacity to lose money. Crowds would gather around the windows of its Bruton Street showrooms aghast at the idea of shelling out £60 for a pair of socks, whilst on the other side of the glass overpaid people with names like Crispin and Fleur spent the day stopping the dust from settling on impossibly overpriced accessories.
There is no doubting the quality of the product turned out by the workers spread out over five floors of the brand’s north London workshop, but the reality is that neither it nor the separate business of the Holland and Holland shooting ground have made a penny in years, which is not something that can be said about Beretta or its UK arm, GMK, the latter of which is now charged with putting that situation to rights. Indeed, the fears expressed by some that the company’s new Italian owners will undermine the brand’s integrity is wholly unfounded. If anything, the risk is that they will pay it too much deference.
What is likely to happen is a massive reduction in the hideously overpriced clothing and accessory offerings and possibly the closure of Bruton Street. What will certainly follow is that Holland and Holland, founded in 1835, will emerge reinvigorated, fit and able to face the next 185 years.