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1992: business retail forecast.

Crystal balls, magic mirrors, tea leaves, tarot cards - at this time of year, financial analysts use every tool they have to predict the economic outlook for 1992 and Shooting Industry magazine is no exception. Unfortunately, the "experts"' forecasts often sound a bit like the weather report in late April: Expect anything from heavy thunderstorms to warm , sunny weather.

Last year the firearms market and the economy in general were haunted by several factors. War was looming in the Middle East the resident had admitted that our country was in the middle of a recession, and legislators were gearing up for a landmark year of gun control laws. Fortunately, nothing turned out quite as badly as anticipated.

So where is the industry heading in 1992? Rather than rely on any mystical method of predicting the future, Shooting Industry used a little more practical tool - the telephone. In order to provide a bit more realistic picture of the coming year, our staff contacted several industry leaders and asked them what they expected in their particular markets for the next 12 months.

SHOTGUNS

For a look ahead at 1992 shotgun sales, SI went to Dick Pelton, executive vice president of sales at North Haven, Conn.-based O.F. Mossberg. Pelton feels the shotgun market has the potential for rapid growth next year in several specific areas.

"Turkey hunting is one of the most lucrative segments in the shotgun market," he said. "Turkey hunters want the best and latest features in their shotguns. Just recently we've seen an introduction of several new turkey guns with a Mossy Oak camouflage and these are making a big impact in the market."

Pelton also expects growth in other shotgun hunting markets, especially waterfowl and big game hunting. "As the lead shot market dries up and is replaced by steel shot, a lot of duck hunters are going to find their old guns just don't work very well. I think we're going to see a lot of hunters trading their old guns for new 3 1/2-inch guns and 10gauge guns.

Big game is another area where Pelton looks for a rise in sales. According to him, as rifle hunting becomes less practical due to shrinking wilderness areas, the need for slug guns will be on the rise. This should come as good news to both Shotgun sellers and dealers who stock the new sabot slugs, which extend the effective range of shotgun hunting well beyond 100 yards. said. "But we haven't seen an increase in slug gun sales yet. I think gun sales are going to start to reflect this renewed interest in slug bunting in 1992."

Along with an increase in the hunting market, Pelton expects the interest in sporting clays to continue to rise in 1992 as more shooters become interested in the sport. Pelton said Mossberg is looking into the possibility of producing a low-end shotgun to sell to the first-time clays shooter.

Finally, Pelton also anticipates an increase in the home defense shotgun market. According to him, recent and pending legislation in many states against high-capacity rifles and pistols may force home owners to look toward short-barreled defense shotguns as their only option. "As any shooter knows, a shotgun is far more deadly than a high-capacity 9mm, but the anti-gun legislators seem to have overlooked that fact," he said. "In hard economic times, people have even more interest in protecting their home and their loved ones, so we expect to see nootable growth in this area in the future."

RIFLES AND HANDGUNS

As the work of Ruger at Prescott, Ariz-based Sturm Ruger & Co. expects to see more practical rifles sold in the next year. According to him, sales of the stainlesssteel and Zytel-stocked Mark 77 rifle have been exceptional, and he expects nothing less in 1992. Ruger feels the blued, walnut stocked rifle is a thing of the past and that, with customers wishing to spend less money for a rifle which can do more, these versatile rifle are going to continue gaining popularity throughout the next year.

Pistols, too, have come a long way from the days of-blued-steel, wood, gripped revolvers and autos. In the next year, Ruger expects to introduce a new .22 pistol with a plastic frame and a line of handguns made with magnesium frames. "Magnesium is as strong as steel, but nearly as light as aluminum," said Michael Bussard, Ruger's public relations manager. "Just like stainless steel, it has the advantage that it makes the gun practically rustproof, but it also means that the weight can be cut by about 50 percent. The only disadvantage is the price - since magnesium is much harder than steel, it is much more difficult to manufacture."

Anti-gun legislation is a major concern for Ruger's rifle and handgun division, but Ruger feels that, in a president tial election year, any laws which drastically effect the firearms industry will be tabled until after the election. "No lawmaker wants to face the immediate wrath of the gun-owning voters," Ruger said. "I expect that anything controversial will be pushed back to '93."

Ruger looks to the closing of automotive plants in the Midwest as a sign that the economy may be in for more rough sailing before the storm clears. "Up until now the recession has effected the two coasts the hardest," Ruger said. "Now I think we may see its effect on the central parts of the country as well."

His advice: "The market probably isn't going to get much worse before it starts to pick back up. I think that retailers who have done well in the last year should basically maintain their status quo; stay where they are until things pick up. Now's not the time to try anything speculative."

ACCESSORIES

While the rest of the firearms industry was struggling to tread winter in 1991, the market for accessories was booming. According to Jack Durette, president of Portland, Ore. based Michaels of Oregaon, when consumers don't have large amounts of money to spend on new guns, they tend to spend small amounts of money on new accessories for the guns they own.

"We've had a record year in 1991, and we expect even more increases in 1991," Durett said.

Michaels of Oregon plans to target two segments of the market in 1992: law enforcement and the European marketplace "We are the first accessories company to start exporting holsters, grips, and slings overseas," Dorette said-"We've done a little business in the new Eastern;

European market, but that's not a significant portion. Most of our sales are in the northwestern portion of Europe."

What To Expect In 19.92

It seems that no one is predicting 1992 to be the year of economic recovery for America, although nobody expects a downturn either. The crisis in the Persian Gulf took over 300,000 young men and women from America, mostly from the middle and southern states," Pelton said. "Many of them were gun enthusiasts. Now that they are returning, I think we'll see the influence of their buying power in the marketplace."

One benefit of the coming election is that, as the presential race heats up, the legislators may take steps to improve the economy to boost their position in the polls. "It may only be a temporary improvement," Ruger said, "but dealers need to be ready to capitalize on it. Know what your customers want and be ready to give it to them as things pick up a bit."

One of the most intimidating concerns for the small retailer in 1992 will be the ever-increasing presence of the large, warehouse retailers who can use their buying power to undercut the prices of the samll dealers. "The little guy can't try to fight the giants head on," Pelton said. "They have to compete by offering the things that the giants don't - service, information, and market

depth. Customers who go into Wal-mart expecting to find someone who knows what they're talking about will be very disappointed, but they'll only come back if they know that the service is worth the little extra price they're paying."
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Title Annotation:small arms and rifles
Author:Farrell, Scott
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:1349
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