The Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show) rang up its second highest attendance ever Jan. 20-23 at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Las Vegas, with nearly 64,000 in attendance from 100-plus countries.
Last year’s record-setting event was at about 67,000 attendees.
SHOT Show reports that lower attendance reflects strengthened pre-screening of attendees to enhance the overall experience of both exhibitors and buyers.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industry, owns and sponsors the SHOT Show.
Excalibur Crossbow has been exhibiting at SHOT Show for seven years, and Kyle Carruthers said, “a lot of visitors stopped by, and it’s been great exposure for our product.”
Steve Henigan with MGI, an exhibitor for eight years, said that the heaviest traffic was seen on the first couple of days and overall it was a good show for their company.
New to SHOT Show this year was the SHOT Store, which was where attendees could stock up on official SHOT Show t-shirts, jackets and hats. It must have been a successful addition given the fact that pickings were slim on the final day.
Digital signage was another new addition this year that SHOT Show plans to expand even more in the years to come. While the digital signs provide information to the attendees during the show, it also was running during move in with information for exhibitors and exhibitor appointed contractors.
The signage and a new clean floor policy helped to make move-in run more smoothly. “Having a smooth move in helped translate to a smooth opening morning and set the tone for the whole show,” said Chris Dolnack, NSSF senior vice president, and chief marketing officer.
Also new was the SHOT Showcase Theater, a collection of exclusive exhibitor presentations for buyers and media. Dolnack admitted this was one new feature that didn’t go quite as well as he anticipated, and he already has ideas that might improve it in the future should they decide to move forward with it again.
Dolnack said, “We’re trying to do as much as we can to add value to the exhibitors, so they feel good about the show.”
He explained that even though the organization is a not-for-profit association, they operate like a for-profit when it comes to their sponsors.
“We have to treat our customers not as members/sponsors but as customers,” Dolnack said. “That’s the way we approach it, and I think it’s paying off. They know we don’t take them for granted.”
To that effort, there are plans to hold a sponsor summit in Las Vegas in April of this year. The goal is to have a frank discussion with sponsors and potential sponsors to understand what NSSF can do to make their show better.
2015 was the second year SHOT Show participated in the U.S. Commercial Service’s International Buyer Program. Last year they participated in the pilot program and this year SHOT Show hosted nine delegations with attendees from over 100 different countries.
This program also is a value add for exhibitors who are looking to export. U.S. Commercial Service officers are on hand throughout the show to help guide them through the export process and share their expertise at no charge to the exhibitors. It’s a resource that many exhibitors would not have access to otherwise.
The New Product Center is a popular area for buyers and the media. Six hundred new products were part of the Center this year; that’s double what attendees saw last year.
By the end of the third day, there was a total of 23,500 scans in the New Product Center, up from 9,000 last year.
To help get new exhibitors off on the right foot, SHOT show requires they buy a package that provides them a good base for pre-show marketing that doesn’t break the bank. It also allows them to place a product in the New Product Center. One exhibitor that took advantage of the New Product Center was a second year exhibitor, Salus Security Devices.
Carmen Lobis of Salus Security Devices said that last year they came to SHOT show with a prototype. The interest level was high, and they received a lot of feedback from attendees on how to improve the prototype.
This year, after incorporating all that feedback into the final design, they put their new product in the New Product Center. Lobis said, “people are seeing the product there and then coming down to see us here in the booth. The media is coming down as well.”
Lobis added, “We’re getting the kind of exposure that we had expected and hoped for. From that standpoint, the show has been a success for us.”
Radio Row, where major conservative radio hosts broadcast live, is another way SHOT Show adds value by creating unique opportunities that exhibitors may not get otherwise.
Even the smallest mom and pop exhibitors can find themselves talking about their product on a national radio show.
SHOT Show’s 1,400 exhibitors and 640,000 square feet of product display aren’t the only reason buyers attend the annual event. There are four separate tracks of education focusing on specialized industry fields.
First-time attendee Mark Williamson, owner of Terrell Guns, said, “I will freely admit it is pretty overwhelming, but I’ve attended all the classes and I’ve gained a lot of insight into the industry. I think I can go back with a new business model that will really increase sales. I can’t compete with Bass Pro and Walmart, but I now have some new marketing strategies.”
- Industry News