By Jade Moldae
As we enter another decade, it provides a natural reflection point to look back at how the previous 10 years fared. Those who study the 2010s in the coming decades will see varied levels of volatility — the industry experienced the highest of highs, as well as some alarming troughs in a short period.
While preparing this month’s column, I reviewed Shooting Industry’s Jan. 2010 issue. The beginning of that decade was also marked by uncertainty: the aftermath of the Great Recession continued to impact businesses in every industry, and there was an element of mystery surrounding how far President Obama would pursue an anti-gun agenda.
Now, 10 years later, a general sense of uncertainty continues — although it’s a little different. The 2020 election looms large, and years of rampant, seemingly impervious growth have been replaced by an extended period of stalled sales, unexpected bankruptcies and the reality of more customers going online to shop.
However, storefront dealers are a resilient group, and many are adapting to changing market conditions to be successful.
“Success in 2020 will be like all election cycles: If you sell guns you’ll likely be fine. But those who sell add-ons will outperform the industry,” lends Jeremy Ball, general manager at Spokane, Wash.-based Sharp Shooting Indoor Range & Gun Shop.
Caution In Inventory
Reflecting back to the 2016 election year, sales were rampant and industry production hit new heights — leaving a lot of excess inventory in the channel after President Trump’s surprise win. Dealers are exercising caution in their inventory decisions for this cycle.
“Our focus will be inventory control,” said Laurie Fettig, co-owner of T&L Tactical in Manitowoc, Wis. “Margins are tight and it seems like businesses are closing every day mostly due to too much inventory versus sales. It’s very easy to buy and overstock during a busy season; buying needs to be focused and restrained when we enter slower periods.”
“If Democrats gain any traction, it will boost sales,” predicted A&P Armory Owner Adam Wagner in Magnolia, Texas. “However, I don’t see a glut of overstock — so I don’t expect the blowout sales like 2016–2017. I also suspect manufacturers will be reluctant to overstock in anticipation of a Democratic president regardless of polling to avoid a repeat of four years ago.”
In a similar vein Jacquelyn Clark, owner of Bristlecone Shooting, Training & Retail Center in Lakewood, Colo., is not forecasting a drastic change in demand from consumers due to the political environment.
“There will be an impact, and hopefully it’s a positive one,” she said. “But we feel it will be smaller than the past few elections. People seem to be getting numb to the political influences — at least from what we’ve observed. The ups and downs aren’t as drastic. So, we’re preparing conservatively.”
Regardless, this year’s election carries significant weight and the SIteam will keep close tabs on new developments impacting the industry.
GLOCK Enters Rimfire Market
In this era, dealers and manufacturers alike have refocused their efforts to champion the “fun” side of the shooting sports — and few calibers harness this capacity like the .22 LR. The new GLOCK 44 looks certain to make an impact in the plinking and target-shooting segment in 2020. Publically unveiled Dec. 10, the G44 is GLOCK’s first-ever pistol chambered in .22 LR.
Similar in size and frame to the G19, the G44 weighs considerably less thanks, in part, to its hybrid steel-polymer slide. (For comparison, a loaded G44 weighs 15.94 oz. — nearly half of the G19 Gen5’s 30.16 oz.) This represents a selling point for dealers: new shooters can get acquainted to the sport with a lighter-shooting pistol
before transitioning to a centerfire caliber — and they can do it without having to learn a new system. During the G44 unveil, this point was driven home by experienced instructor Tatiana Whitlock.
“The G44 offers the G19 experience without the recoil. For those new, hesitant or unsure, it’s going to take away that problem and allow them a successful and fun first shooting experience,” she said. “It will also be a huge asset to those participants with limited dexterity or hand strength.”
With launch campaign hashtags of #StartYourJourney and #Plink44, GLOCK is targeting new shooters — as well as existing customers. The G44 ships with two, 10-round load-assist magazines and will be available Jan. 20.
After 65 Years, We’re Just Getting Started
Shooting Industry has overseen plenty of ebbs and flows in its 65-year history, and we’re just as motivated as ever to continue championing the backbone of the industry: the storefront dealer.
Here in 2020, you can count on us to uncover successful business strategies, highlight brands that are looking to grow their brick-and-mortar dealer base and provide updates on new developments from the campaign trail and courtroom battles.
To better serve our readers, we’ve made some additions to Shooting Industry’s planned 2020 editorial coverage. Next month, for example, will evaluate how savvy dealers are staying profitable and beating out the likes of Amazon and online-only dealers. Dealers have made it clear the need to evolve and focusing on the “experience” are two crucial factors to expanding sales to new customers.
Additional highlights coming later in 2020 include the return of the Woman’s Issue (May), tips for hosting and securing sponsorships for in-store events (June and July), trends impacting training (Sept.) and all the regular columns — including the new From The Archives editorial.
From our business to yours, we wish you every measure of success in 2020 and look forward to partnering with you this year. Contact me directly anytime you want to discuss initiatives to drive business in the industry: firstname.lastname@example.org.