Next month marks the 41st annual SHOT Show, where members from all corners of the shooting sports industry will gather once again in Las Vegas.

By Carolee Anita Boyles

NSSF representatives say the SHOT Show — running four days from January 22–25 at the Sands Expo & Convention Center — is where you can “Gear Up” your business for a successful 2019 business year.

“For retail buyers and shooting range buyers, and even the law enforcement buyers, it really is all about the gear,” said Chris Dolnack, SVP and CMO of NSSF. “Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve been hunting and shooting for 30 or 40 years, there’s still nothing quite like looking at gear, touching it, feeling it and handling it.”

Since 2010, SHOT Show has been held at the Sands and has roughly the same floor plan. Each year, though, the show improves and grows. Just one example: In 2017, the Supplier Showcase opened as a dedicated event for suppliers to present their products to shooting, hunting and outdoor manufacturers. If you use or produce tools, machinery, plastics, metal extrusions, fabrics, OE materials, fabrication, logistics, software or other products and services for the shooting sports or outdoor sporting industries, then SHOT Week’s Supplier Showcase is your opportunity to connect with each other at the SHOT Show. This forum is perfect for manufacturer owners, engineers, purchasing agents and R&D specialists.

“This year our Supplier Showcase is a two-day exhibit, and we have a lot more exhibitors than before,” shared Melissa Schilling, director of exhibitions and conferences at NSSF. “We are expecting more than 500 exhibits.”

This means a change to the entire New Products Center.

“We’re expanding the part of the New Products Center where the Supplier Showcase is located across the hall leading to the corridor back to A Hall,” Dolnack said. “There was a lot of foot traffic in the area last year, and quite a few product inquiries from the scanners.”

The Caliber Club also is continuing in 2019. Introduced in 2018, the Caliber Club is the VIP experience of the SHOT Show. Paid membership in the Caliber Club provides Caliber Club Lounge Access for the member and two guests, where amenities such as complimentary snacks and beverages, private meeting rooms, chair massages, shoe shines, pack-and-ship services and other business center resources are available. A Caliber Club badge identifies members to vendors, suppliers and onsite personnel for additional VIP services and access. Concierge services include making dinner reservations and ordering complimentary show tickets, and membership means discounts at the Sands Expo and Venetian/Palazzo Hotel.

“The Caliber Club provides an upgrade to registration,” Schilling lends. “We are selling a limited number of passes for $275.”

The NEXT Pavilion upstairs will remain the same for 2019. Now in its fourth year, the NEXT kiosks continue to be a big hit; there was considerable traffic in this area of the show last year. Companies who do well there are ready for the main show floor as soon as there’s room for them.

New Venues Set For 2020

In keeping with the expanding needs of the show, Dolnack said both exhibitors and attendees will see some major changes coming in 2020, beginning with the Supplier Showcase.

“In 2020 we’re going to expand over to the MGM,” he shared. “The Supplier Showcase will be moving over there in its entirety. We still have more than 1,000 exhibitors on the waitlist; unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate them in the space we have. This is frustrating for us as much as it is for the exhibitors because they want access to the market and to buyers.”

NSSF has secured the MGM conference space starting in 2020 and has a three-year contract with the hotel.

“In addition to moving the Supplier Showcase there, we’re also going to begin promoting to other industries — like automotive and aerospace,” Dolnack added. “There are a lot of common manufacturing processes for parts with companies that machine parts and do metal injection molding and produce centered parts.”

Following the 2020 expansion to the MGM, there will be another step in 2021.

“In 2021 we will expand to the Caesar’s Forum which is being built right next door to the Sands,” Dolnack outlined. “Those two venues will increase our overall net exhibit space by 50 percent.”

And look for even bigger changes in the future.

“We’re in talks with a couple of other companies who are in the process of building or developing more exhibit space,” Dolnack stated. “When you look at the Consumer Electronics Show, it’s a city-wide show. They have multiple venues all over the city and convention centers and hotels and ballrooms. 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 it’s incumbent on us as the trade association to provide those opportunities to help expand and grow the market.”

International Sales

For the past four years, exhibitors who attended the show were able to participate in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Buyer Program. This program provides the SHOT Show with support from the U.S. Department of Commerce to manage and facilitate matching international buyers with exhibiting U.S. companies, and work with U.S. exhibitors to educate them on existing government export programs. The program offers Department of Commerce support on a variety of issues to help out show exhibitors, including providing export counsel, assistance with intellectual property infringement (IPR), education on Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP!) program, IPR protection measures during the show and means to protect intellectual property in overseas markets.

Although there are no major changes to this program, it continues to grow and expand.

“The Department of Commerce is bringing more and more delegations to the SHOT Show,” Dolnack added. “We’ve had great growth and success in the program over the last several years.”

A New Answer To “Where’s My Badge?”

One big change for 2019 is NSSF will no longer be mailing badges to attendees; now there will only be on-site pickup.

“We’re doing this for a couple of reasons,” Dolnack informed. “One is so we can provide some data back to our we can provide some data back to our exhibitors. We’ll have location wafers on the badges. So, let’s say the VP of sales and marketing is in a meeting in a conference room, and an important buyer comes in the booth. We’ll be able to tell that buyer whether the person he wants to see is able to come to the booth or not.”

Think of it as a sort of in-show GPS.

“We’re not going to do it throughout the entire show,” Dolnack relayed. “We’ll do it in certain areas of the show such as the New Product Center, the press room and the Supplier Showcase. It’s an experiment for us, but we are continuously being asked for more data, and we think it’s essential for us to give it to them.”

The other reason for on-site pickup, according to Dolnack, is customer service.

“The number-one customer service call we get regarding the SHOT Show is, ‘Where is my badge?’” he shared. “Even though we’ve continued to move the cutoff date earlier to allow more time for badges to be mailed, there’s still a high expectation for badges to arrive very quickly. If we can eliminate this aspect of it, attendees will have less anxiety.”

NSSF will set up badge pickup kiosks at the airport, in the convention center and in the lobbies of several hotels, Dolnack said.

“Our goal is to have customers spend less time in line and relieve the anxiety of potentially leaving for the show without their badge,” he added.

Education At The Show

As usual, attendees will have lots of opportunity for education at the SHOT Show. However, there will be some changes to the format.
“We’ve changed the name from ‘SHOT Show University’ to ‘SHOT University, a NSSF live event,’” Dolnack informed. “We did this because you’ll see SHOT University other than just at the SHOT Show. I think you’ll see it at buying group shows, and you might see it at an upcoming distributor show in January as well as in some cities during the summer. It will also have a very strong online component our team has been working on.”
Toward that end, NSSF hired Dr. Michael Hepner, who was the associate dean at Vincennes University in Indiana.
“He is an avid shooter, gunsmith and armorer, and he’s developing a curriculum,” Dolnack said. “We’re in the process of shooting videos and producing online curriculum for firearms retailers and shooting range operators.”
Some of these programs will be repeats of what retailers see at the SHOT Show. Others will be new material.
“The online component will seek to supplement the live sessions,” Dolnack added. “They will give more detail than you can present in a one-hour session. SHOT Show University is geared more toward the owner, operator and managerial level. The online curriculum will also have this aspect, but it will include a lot more detail, SOPs and procedures for the rest of the store staff and the shooting range staff.”
SHOT University will be held on Monday, January 21, at the Venetian. The cost for SHOT University is $250 for NSSF members and $500 for non-members.

SHOT Show attendees will have the opportunity to handle products from over 1,600 companies. “For retail buyers and shooting range buyers … it really is all about the gear,” lends Chris Dolnack, NSSF SVP and CMO. “There’s still nothing quite like looking at gear, touching it, feeling it and handling it.”

HAVA Invitational Golf Classic

The NSSF and the Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA) are once again joining forces to host the industry’s annual golf tournament. The NSSF/HAVA Golf Classic raises money to support disabled veterans with their healing process through guided hunts, target shooting events and other outdoor activities. HAVA is a 501(c)(3) organization and one of the most worthy veteran-support causes. 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. It underscores 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.

A One-Of-A-Kind Show

Although there are plenty of other shows during the year, none of them match the breadth and impact of the SHOT Show. Not only does it kickoff the year and showcase everything available within the trade, it’s also a networking show, an educational show and a media show that spreads the word across the industry.

“The SHOT Show is the only place where 30,000 attendees can talk to the engineer that designed the product or meet the president of the company,” Dolnack concluded. “At the SHOT Show, you can see everyone and everything you need to have a competitive edge.”

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