Back From The SHOT Show

Every sportsman deserves to experience the enormity of attending the SHOT Show at least one time in their life.   Really!   I don’t care how big the sportsman’s shows are in your “neck of the woods” it simply does not begin to compare to the hunting and shooting extravaganza known for almost three decades as the SHOOTING, HUNTING and OUTDOOR TRADE Show.

I had intended for this blog post to be about the many new products featured at the show…but that will have to wait until tomorrow.   Today, instead, I want to blog about what it’s like attending the SHOT Show.   I suspect that many of you have heard about this event having a rather exclusive attendance (by trade officials only), yet you still probably wonder what it’s like to really experience the 4 days where much of the hunting world seems to gather each year to focus on the future of hunting and related outdoors trade.

At the show you obviously have exhibitors who pay big bucks for their booth space.   Most who are new get space usually about 10 feet wide from which to hock their wares.   If they really feel confident their product will go over big…they might opt for even more space.   But remember, the thousands spent on purchasing the exhibit space pales in comparison to the cost of the glitzy displays that the product producer must also have to grab the attention of the attendees.   In many instances, the display, the location it can be found, and the marketing aptitude of those manning the booth will eventually determine if the product succeeds at the show.   Failing to have a successful SHOT Show appearance will definitely place a new product at a major disadvantage from being accepted in the marketplace.   I’m doing a little guessing at this, but I estimate it must cost a minimum of $15,000 just to show up at the show as an exhibitor with all the necessary expenses associated with attendance (travel, booth space, booth, lodging, staff, literature, etc.).

SHOTshowfloor2Then of course you have the attendees.   Gun shop owners, managers, buyers, just about anyone even remotely associated with the industry walking the isles.   Many pulling big wheeled carts to toss in the catalogs and free samples.   As an attendee to this show if you wanted to collect everything that was offered to you it would fill the back bed of a pickup truck.   Heavy catalogs, single sheet flyers…everything designed to serve as a product reminder so that when the attendee gets back home they have that vital resource to remind them how to order (as well as what to order).   Oh sure, there are many SHOT Show specials and I suspect that many store buyers take advantage of the increased savings.   If nothing else, it helps to offset the cost of the trip.   Remember, a lot of these guys virtually must shut their stores down while they are gone…so attendance comes at a heavy price for some small gun store owners.

As you walk the seemingly never-ending carpeted isles you quickly get a sense this is a true international event.   Not only are there exhibitors from many countries…such as Italy, Germany, Spain, and Japan, but the attendees walking the show are also quite multi-cultural by all appearances.   The whole gamut of attire can be seen from folks wearing well-worn jeans and t-shirts to those attendees who prefer to spiff up a bit just to be taken a bit more seriously when conducting their business affairs.

This year I hung out a bit in the press room which in many ways is also an interesting mix of varied folks.   Here table after table is stacked with press releases and samples hoping to make it easier for the media to latch on to reporting that new concept in the outdoors being promoted out on the show floor.   Information is quickly disseminated by the writers via the computer which now is linked to the Internet.   Oh how things have changed…back when I first attended SHOT back in the 80’s I can remember typewriters and phone lines (for hook-ups to Compuserve, newslines) positioned around the perimeter.   Now with video becoming such a big part of the outdoor communications scene there are many more film crews running around with their high-definition video cameras making sure they did not miss a critical happening at the show.

Several years back the show organizers had the brainstorm idea to categorize the show…in other words putting all the clothing and soft goods manufacturers in one section, general hunting and shooting stuff in another, with other sections now even devoted to law enforcement and paintball.   Of course, still conspicuously absent from the show is the archery folks who mostly broke away from the show maybe 6 or 8 years back.   The ATA Show is now held separately on another weekend and at a different location each year.

Indeed, the SHOT Show is certainly an event to be experienced not only for what it is, but also for the many characters it attracts.   I had to chuckle at one blogger who made a compassionate plea to his readers to raise money ($3,000) so he could attend the show and provide his annual new product report.   Apparently just in the neck of time his winter get-away was salvaged as a sponsor came through with the much needed funds.   WOW!   I budgeted about a grand for my trip and stuck to it without making any sacrifices.   I guess this same blogger had his sights set on staying at the Peabody while eating fancy meals all at someone else’s expense.   I had to chuckle.   Like I said…the SHOT Show attracts some interesting characters as well as some interesting new outdoor products.

In the end, SHOT Show 2007 will go down in the books for me as a show that was quite mediocre in comparison to previous shows.   Still, tomorrow when I finally get around to showcasing my top ten picks from SHOT Show 2007 I think you will see that none of the products chosen will dramatically enhance or effect the way most of us enjoy the outdoors.   Then again, maybe that’s just the way it ought to be.

© 2007 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction Allowed Without Prior Permission.