The More Things Change

And How Some Things Stay The Same

By Kenyon Gleason, NASGW President

Many people I talk to hate change.

Often, it’s with a burning, loathing and festering hatred. And when things change, they hunker down and hide, retreat into a shell and only come out after a lot of coaxing and promises the world is not going to fall apart. Change for them is scary and sometimes crippling.

Does this sound like you?

Maybe you’re from the camp of individuals who embraces change. Thrives on it. Feeds on the excitement of the new, different and unexpected. I know people like this, too. If things aren’t changing, they feel they aren’t fully alive. There’s something to be said for that. Because whether we like it or not, our worlds at work and home are always changing, even if in subtle ways we don’t always recognize.

I wouldn’t place myself into either of the two above categories necessarily, though I probably lean a bit more toward the latter. Change doesn’t really scare me much anymore. I’ve grown accustomed to it over time. And frankly, when I’m able to take the time to stop and really focus on the changes happening to and around me, I often strategize how I might be able to benefit from the change or how I can use it to my advantage.

Right now in the shooting sports industry things are in a pretty rapid cycle of change. Even in just the wholesale distribution ranks over the past 12–18 months we’ve seen the proof. We’ve lost a handful of distributors, most prominently AcuSport. As an influential two-step distributor and member of the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers (NASGW) their closure certainly sent ripples across the industry.

4 Changes Taking Shape

Some other things changing across the industry include:
1 There’s a big change in the way people are looking at corporate spending. Many companies have grown more thoughtful and are taking the safe bets on where and how they spend their money. If there isn’t a clear-cut return on investment, they take a pass.

2 A new level of sophistication is appearing in the industry. Despite
a soaring economy and high consumer confidence, many in our industry learned some hard and valuable lessons from the severe downturns in the recent past. In an effort to adjust, companies are working to be smarter and more calculated in laying out sales and operational plans.

3 In a similar vein to the last point, there isn’t a free-wheeling and loose buying and selling attitude we sometimes saw during the Obama Administration, where people were buying any and every thing produced, taking profit wherever available. There’s plenty of evidence indicating a trend toward smaller purchases, even if more frequent. Companies in the industry are being cautious about stretching themselves too thin and getting caught with too much on the line.

4 Marketing has changed too, with many companies choosing to mix things around in terms of when they come to market with products and even when they offer specials. Instead, companies are trying to find new sweet spots and getting out of the traditional market release philosophies.

Many of these changes are exciting. Certainly, some come with an element of risk. I’d categorize much of the change as intriguing and worthy of watching over the next few months and into next year. I suspect there’s a lot more to come.

4 Enduring Things

While there is plenty of change, some things have stayed the same. What I mean is, even with all the market and business changes and challenges wholesale distributors are still standing tall, offering the same (and in many cases more advanced) benefits and services retailers have come to rely on, such as:

1 Two-step distributors offer an exceptional network of information precisely because they work with both the retail and manufacturing sides of the industry. These multiple perspectives and daily touchpoints make them experts on what’s happening out there in the “real world.” Most distributors are a treasure trove of knowledge and if you aren’t in constant contact with yours, you are missing out.

2 Two-step distributors are tremendous business partners. If all a wholesaler ever did was buy and re-sell, with no interaction nor care for the customers, this certainly wouldn’t be true. But they don’t just buy and sell … they read the market, they plan for the future and watch where the market is moving. Those insights can help you do the same.

3 Many distributors are excellent at helping with marketing, in-store merchandising, education, training, credit services and of course navigating today’s myriad regulatory and political challenges. And that’s just the beginning. There’s a movement underway toward an even greater connectivity between distributors and their retail partners, making it easier for retailers to see what’s available, from whom, and to get it in a timely fashion.

4 Two-step distributors are always evolving their operations, in everything from building and process efficiencies to the creation of strategic and business intelligence data streams. Yet they remain committed to the success of the entire industry and understand more than ever before the importance of an industry “big picture” view.

A Look To The Future

One major way the distributor members of the NASGW are seeing the big picture is through the creation of a newly announced SCOPE data program, released officially at the association’s Expo and annual meetings held in Pittsburgh in October. The association has partnered with the majority of its distributor members to create a sales and inventory database unparalleled in the industry.

For the first time ever, distributors and manufacturer members of the NASGW will have access to up-to-date business intelligence about sales trends across the country in nearly every conceivable category of products: firearms, ammunition, optics and multiple accessory categories. SCOPE will be able to answer many of the “how,” “why” and “where” questions asked by today’s top industry companies and members of NASGW.

This incredible information resource will be a powerful new tool for distributors to make better decisions on what they buy, and for manufacturers to make better decisions about what to produce, and when. In the end, the full shooting sports sales channel, and dare I say the entire industry, will benefit. It’s an exciting time for members of the NASGW.

Adapting To Reality

Large swings in supply and demand in the recent past have certainly made their mark on the industry. Two-step distributors, and others, are adapting to these new market realities. Even with the changes — despite what sometimes appears as chaos — the distributor members of the NASGW will continue to do what they’ve always done: They’ll work with retailers and manufacturers alike, all in an effort to grow the industry and the bottom line for all their partners across the channel.

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