By Jade Moldae
One of the enduring statistics from SHOT Show 2019 is found not in the 12.5 miles of aisles, 692,000 net square feet of exhibit space or nearly 60,000 attendees (while all impressive, absolutely) — but in the record 2,400 exhibitors who had a presence at the industry’s largest event via the Supplier Showcase, NEXT Pavilion, Pop-Up Preview, Law Enforcement section or main halls. It’s an unmatched forum providing 2,400 opportunities for dealers, government buyers, international customers, investors and other vendors. And with plans to expand the show’s footprint in 2020 and 2021, there will be even more companies able to present their products and services to the industry.
As NSSF’s Chris Dolnack shared with me in this month’s review of SHOT Show: “There isn’t anywhere else on Earth where buyers can meet that many suppliers. And we believe this growth benefits everyone in the industry.”
While staging a larger event poses its own set of unique challenges, it does open up a significant number of new connections for the industry. Dealers will have more than 3,000 potential partners to engage with when SHOT 2020 opens Jan. 21.
Signs Of Life
In February, the industry received some welcome news: For only the fourth time since the start of 2017, NSSF-adjusted NICS background checks posted an increase over the corresponding month of the prior year. The Jan. 2019 NSSF-adjusted NICS figure of 988,160 represented a 3.4 percent jump over Jan. 2018 (955,466). While not a drastic change or the sign of an instant rebound, it’s still a positive development. (It has since been tempered by Feb. 2019’s 12.8 percent decrease from Feb. 2018, but NSSF-adjusted checks still totaled 1,109,087.)
Other segments continue to thrive today — especially in niche categories. Earlier in this issue, Ruger President and CEO Chris Killoy shared his company’s continued success with niche products.
“We’re seeing a lot of demand for niche calibers, niche cartridges,” he said in a Feb. 21 earnings call on the company’s Q4 2018 and 2018 annual sales. “Certain categories are experiencing good growth. The niche products and line extensions are really key to keeping volumes up and grabbing market share.”
In discussing her company’s successful SHOT Show experience, RISE Armament Marketing
Director Camille Torres highlighted how the shift of customers looking to refine or improve existing platforms has impacted business.
“The data shows the industry as a whole is down, but categories and companies are still growing,” she shared. “For example, the demand for aftermarket triggers continues to increase as customers understand the benefits and want to upgrade their rifles’ performance.”
Many other companies continue to flourish — Leupold set a company production record in 2018 — while others have embarked on varied paths to bolster their profile through expansions (Bangers, GPO USA), relocations (Weatherby, Taurus), military contracts (SIG SAUER, Barrett, EOTech) or acquisitions (American Outdoor Brands, Birchwood Casey).
Taking a historical view, the industry’s impressive growth over the past decade ensures it’s still an economic force today.
Making History In May
Next month promises to be one of Shooting Industry’s all-time editions: the first-ever Woman’s Issue. SI has presented themed issues before — such as this SHOT Show Review issue and the New Business Year editions — but none have focused exclusively on one particular segment to this degree. In total, eight features and columns will cover a large swathe of subjects centered on the premise of helping dealers (and the industry) better communicate, market and connect to this fast-growing, motivated demographic.
You’ll hear from dealers like Lisa Roux, CFO and co-owner of Shooter’s World (with a location in Phoenix and Peoria, Ariz.), who has carefully crafted a welcoming culture at her store — beginning with personnel.
“Staff is so important when reaching out to women,” she lends. “Our staff is friendly, well-groomed. We extensively train them in how to deal with women. When a woman walks in the door new to shooting, they don’t throw out all these gun vernacular terms. It’s very intimidating, very off-putting. We make sure our staff, both men and women, is approachable. Our building is well lit, clean, bright — it’s not some seedy scary gun shop.”
The goal with Shooting Industry’s Woman’s Issue is to educate, encourage and give you some new ideas on how to capture more sales from this important segment. We’re excited it to present it to you, and we hope it will lead to positive developments at your store or range, as well.
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