Industry’s Mega Event Primed To Equip Dealers In New Business Year
By Carolee Anita Boyles
When 5,600 members of the outdoors industry gathered in 1979 in St. Louis, Mo., for the first SHOT Show, they certainly never envisioned the size the show would reach by its 42nd year. Once again, dealers, industry executives and other professionals are gathering in Las Vegas — this time for SHOT Show 2020. NSSF representatives say the SHOT Show —running for four days, Jan. 21–24, at the Sands Expo & Convention Center — is where you can make sure your business is “Fully Loaded” for a successful 2020.
“As the tagline says, the SHOT Show is ‘fully loaded’ with everything you’d want to see and experience at one event,” said Bill Dunn, managing director of marketing communications for NSSF. “It’s an opportunity for attendees to experience and see products, education, networking opportunities, people from every segment of our industry and attendees from around the world. It’s fully loaded with all that and so much more.”
With the SHOT Show being held at the same venue over the past decade-plus (and generally the same floor plan), each year has brought refinements and growth.
“We’ve refreshed the look and feel of the show to include all signage — meter boards, aisle signs, directional and other messaging — with the Fully Loaded theme,” revealed Chris Dolnack, NSSF SVP and CMO. “Attendees will notice an increased use of digital signage to help them navigate the show floor and to bring them timely messaging, such as education session schedules, shuttle bus schedules, locations of the Supplier Showcase, NEXT and the Pop-up Preview. And we’re expanding the Distributor Marketplace, featuring wholesale distributors exhibiting at SHOT Show and offering show specials for retailers and shooting ranges.”
With the unfortunate contraction of distribution over the last year or so, Dolnack said, the Distributor Marketplace provides buyers with the opportunity to take advantage of special pricing at the “show within a show.”
“In addition to the 1,200-plus manufacturers who write direct orders with retailers and shooting ranges, buyers can access ‘show-only’ specials with many of the industry’s leading distributors,” he continued.
In addition to the 1,200-plus manufacturers who write
direct orders with retailers and shooting ranges, buyers
can access ‘show-only’ specials with many of the
industry’s leading distributors.
”Chris Dolnack SVP & CMO NSSF
Expanding Into New Locations
In keeping with the expanding needs of the show, both exhibitors and attendees will see some major changes in the future. Initially, Dolnack said, the plan was to expand into the MGM Conference Center in 2020, but construction plans at Caesars Palace allowed NSSF to make a better choice for the needs of the show. This will delay the expansion of the SHOT Show until 2021, but the eventual outcome will be improved and accessible adjunct exhibit space.
“We secured exhibit space at the MGM Conference Center for 2020 in response to exhibitors requesting additional space,” Dolnack noted. “Then when Caesars Palace decided to move forward with the new Caesars Forum right next door to the Sands Expo, it made more sense to shift our focus there for the convenience of our customers. We were fortunate a tech company wanted the MGM Conference Center space during our contracted dates, and we released the space back to our partners at MGM Resorts.”
Several members of the SHOT Show team visited the new site in late August.
“It was remarkable to see the construction progress of Caesars Forum since our last site visit in June,” Dolnack observed. “It’s a beautiful, modern facility offering a number of opportunities to provide SHOT Show attendees with new experiences such as live-firing new products in shooting range trailers, an expanded New Product Center and a live demonstration area. There will be a temporary covered pedestrian bridge from the Sands Expo to Caesars Forum that provides a near seamless experience for attendees. Caesars Forum opens March 2020 and will host the NFL Draft in April 2020, as well as a number of tech conferences. So by the time of the 2021 SHOT Show, we’ll have the benefit of working with an experienced staff at Caesars Forum. We’re excited to be able to finally offer exhibitors an opportunity to expand their exhibit space after years of being totally venue bound.”
If SHOT Show still needs more space after this expansion, according to Dolnack, NSSF will look for additional, convenient exhibit space for show attendees. It may mean multiple venues in Las Vegas, like ballrooms in other hotels.
“When you look at shows such as the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), they’re city-wide events,” he said. “They have multiple venues all over the city. If we have a demand and can provide a forum for manufacturers to present their products, and it adds value for the buyers, then I think we need to provide those opportunities for them.”
For the past five years, exhibitors who attended the show were able to participate in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Buyer Program. This program has been revamped by the Department of Commerce, and now is called the Trade Event Partnership Program (TEPP).
According to the Department of Commerce’s website, TEPP is available to organizers of trade shows and U.S. Pavilions in the U.S. and abroad. TEPP leverages the reputation and worldwide network the International Trade Administration (ITA) provides while expanding the recruitment capability and opportunities available to U.S. exhibitors and foreign business communities.
TEPP gives potential exhibitors and international attendees assurance that the U.S. Department of Commerce recognizes the exceptional quality of the event for maximizing opportunities to U.S. producers and service providers. Flexible partnership options ensure ITA is providing those elements of most value for the event.
“We’ve just been accepted into TEPP,” relayed Melissa Schilling, NSSF director, exhibitions and conferences. “We’ll provide the same incentives as previous years to both U.S. embassy delegation leaders and international buyers. All international buyers through TEPP will receive complimentary registration, complimentary educational offerings during SHOT Show, badge printing through the International Trade Center to avoid registration lines and matchmaking with exhibitors interested in meeting with international buyers during the show.”
New Badges Yield Traffic Insights
Last year, NSSF transitioned to a badge system capable of tracking traffic through the show. Badges have location wafers on them, allowing a computer to identify where attendees are located in the convention center. It’s a sort of in-show GPS system NSSF hoped would provide data to improve the show experience in the future.
“We learned a lot about our traffic flow,” Dolnack noted. “We also identified some areas of the show floor where irregularities in the aisles caused backups as attendees navigated around 90-degree turns. In some cases, aisles have 90-degree turns at both ends. We’re working to straighten those aisles out for the 2022 show, with the most likely result being a space draw following the 2021 show.”
NSSF also learned the New Product Center and Level One (G Hall) are among the most heavily visited areas of the show — “Contrary to what some might think, particularly as it pertains to Level One,” Dolnack added.
Education At The Show
Retailers always have lots of opportunity for education at the SHOT Show, and this year is no exception.
Schilling shared the format for SHOT University will be the same as last year.
“There will be four tracks this year,” she said. “The focus will be: Memberships, Training & Events; E-commerce and Social Media; Compliance with ATF, State, OSHA, and EPA regulations; and Customer Experience. SHOT University will run all day on Monday, January 20, 2020 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The agenda will kick-off with a general session highlighting the +ONE Movement and concluding with another general session with Maj Toure, presenting ‘Engaging the Urban Community.’” (Attendance at SHOT University costs $265 for NSSF members; $525 for non-members. Premium retail/range members will receive their first ticket free.)
The Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) focuses on protection measures and tactical execution for working law enforcement officers. Instructors come from leading industry training associations such as the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) and industry product authorities. Upon completion of the program, LEEP participants receive a Certificate of Attendance confirming course participation, which they can use to document their training. A one-time registration fee of $25 gives participants access to all 2020 LEEP courses.
Retailer Seminars will be held during the show from Tuesday, Jan. 21 through Thursday, Jan. 23 — giving participants flexibility to mix each day with education and exhibits. Topics for the Retailer Seminars are developed from inquiries and feedback received during the year from dealers and from a retail advisory council. Participants learn about important industry challenges, better management practices and ways to make their business stand out.
HAVA Invitational Golf Classic
“We’re pleased to partner with Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA) to produce the Sunday golf tournament once again,” Dolnack said. “It’s an important source of revenue for the only industry-run veterans’ charity and a great way to network with other industry members, have some fun before a very busy week kicks off and help real American heroes and their families as they transition back to civilian life. Their stories are truly amazing and it’s humbling to be among them at the tournament. As a HAVA board member I really appreciate the outpouring of support from the industry to help make this event the success it is.”
HAVA is a 501(c)(3) organization and one of the most worthy veteran-support causes, one from which the veterans actually see and experience the results of the charitable contributions made to the organization. It is also one our entire industry stands behind — HAVA was formed by companies in the shooting and outdoor industry in 2008 — underscoring how valuable and important this cause is and how deeply committed we are to helping these veterans recover from their wounds and return to normal, functional lives.
Retailers have the opportunity to attend plenty of other shows during the year. None of them take the place of the SHOT Show. SHOT Show kicks off the year and showcases everything available within the trade. As we’ve included in previous issues: It’s a networking show, an educational show and a media show that spreads the word across the industry.
“We’re excited about the opportunity we have to help grow the industry at a time when our businesses are being challenged economically, socially and politically,” Dolnack concluded. “The 2020 SHOT Show is fully loaded with opportunities to learn, network, see new products, meet new suppliers and customers, place orders with leading distributors all under one roof and rally together in anticipation of what surely will be a challenging year for us all.”
SHOT University, Now Online
Oct. 22, NSSF extended SHOT University’s influence for FFLs and Ranges, launching an online education resource: SHOT University Online. Available at no charge to NSSF members, SHOT University’s easy-access curriculum allows members to take advantage of industry-leading educational content wherever they choose to use it. Provided by experts in retail strategies, marketing, security and technology, regulatory compliance and a host of other relevant topics, some of the numerous courses being offered include: Inventory Management and KPIs; Range Training Equipment and Program Design; Marketing Range Training Programs; The Guide to New Range Start-Ups; Membership Trends and Social Media 101.
“We’ve seen an increase in the demand for the specialized content we provide across the host of educational events NSSF holds throughout the year,” explained Mike Vrooman, NSSF managing director, member services. “We have a wealth of resources that help our retailers and range owners do business better, from regional ATF training sessions and live webinars to forums such as our Industry Summit, Import/Export Conference and our annual in-person SHOT University at SHOT Show. We wanted to create a one-stop resource that is both comprehensive and more readily available. SHOT University Online’s 24/7-365 presence accomplishes that while putting convenience and ease of access in sharp focus.”
SHOT University Online is available only to NSSF members. To learn more and view the courses, visit www.nssf.org/education.