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Taking advantage of the Shot Show.

Lt's face it, the SHOT show can be positively overwhelming. Whether you're a multi-year veteran or a shiny new rookie, there's simply too much to do and see for one person to possibly cover the whole thing even with the new four day format. Every year we get questions about specific topics relating to the show. One of the leading ones is, "Should I go?"

The answer to that is resounding and absolute. If you possibly can afford it GO! There isn't another opportunity in the year when every one of the manufacturers who sells anything you're likely to ever want will be together in one place. The SHOT show is definitely a buying opportunity. Almost everyone has specials that are limited to the run of the show, so if you know what you want it's a good time to cut a deal. But, there's a lot of impulse buying as well, and that can be either good or bad. it's easy to find yourself with a kid in a candy store outlook 'cause there is a lot of neat gee whiz stuff there and they'd love to sell you every bit of it.

Almost every manufacturer uses the SHOT ShOw to introduce their new" products for the coming year. These are often closely guarded secrets and they're sprung on the industry all at once. Of course there are a lot of things that are called new when they're nothing more than variations of existing products but there are usually are one or two revolutionary products as well. One of the better innovations in show management is the New Products section that is limited exclusively to new ideas. The manufacturers get a little bit of space and you probably won't see any representatives there, but there will be samples and literature so you can go to their booth for more information if you find something appealing. But there's one question you must ask. "Does this product really exist?" You'd be surprised how many one-ofs or prototypes there are in the new product section and it's a great idea to take, with a sizeable grain of salt, any manufacturer's estimation of when the real product will be available. They may not deliberately lie to you, but Murphy is alive and well in the gun business and new products are frequently accompanied by "unavoidable delays." So before you plunk down your bucks make sure of availability and then add a fudge factor so you won't be stuck telling your customers, in May, that the product that was supposed to be there in March ain't there yet.

The new products corner is usually open before show hours so instead of spending the time milling around with the rest of the herd waiting to get in, stroll through to see if anything catches your fancy enough to deserve a follow-up visit to the booth.

If you've committed your hard earned bucks, even though they're deductible, to making the trek to Dallas you'll et the most for your money if you do a little homework first. Management schools teach you to make a "to do" list. I make three - A, B, and C.

The "A" list contains only those people that are so important that I It think about shooting myself if I miss one and those people become my first day's priority. I will make the list and then, using the guide in this issue or the one sent with your pre-registration you did pre-register didn't you'?) I'll plan a logical sequence of booths so I don't spend a lot of time backtracking. This is a great idea, in theory, but the actual show floor rarely looks like the map and you'll probably spend a bit of time wandering around dazed trying to figure out where to head. Don't worry, look about and you'll see lots of blank stares, almost everybody else is lost too.

Take as long as you need to see everyone on the "A" list. If you pass a booth and see something interesting you have to stop and make a decision. Is it something worth putting on the "A" list? If it isn't pass it by and consider adding it to the "B" list. The "B" list should have those exhibitors that you judge important but not important enough to make the "A" list. If you miss one of them it won't kill you. If you've finished the "A" list then the "B" list becomes primary. Somewhere in a back pocket is the "C" list of people it would be nice to see, but. Take it and throw it away because there isn't enough time in the day.

There is, of course, a flaw in the wonderful logic I've described. Sooner or later you're going to find that a couple of hundred of your closest friends had the same idea and you can't get within a mile of your target. After this happens a few times your best laid plans are in a shambles. Instead of giving up and wandering aimlessly, check the directory to see if there's a nearby A or B that you can check out. The folks that work the booths are painfully aware of your problems and a few will make appointments so you can come back at a mutually convenient time.

Everyone has literature by the ton and even if you can't get to talk with someone in the booth you can pick up catalogs etc. for later reference. I would love to figure out how much paper is distributed at the SHOT show and there's a real trap to avoid. It's a natural tendency to pick up one of everything, but before too long it becomes an unmanageable mountain. I've seen too many folks struggling to get on airplanes with six of those handy Outdoor Life/NRA/Glock/Leupold/SHOT Show et al literature bags only to find that everyone else on the plane has the same problem and there's no place to put it. Ride halfway across the country with 20 pounds of catalogs in your lap and you'll never make that mistake again. One of the most popular services provided at the show packages and ships your stuff to you by UPS for a reasonable fee, but don't wait till the afternoon of the last day to try to do that. Everyone else is doing the same thing and lines can be long.

You will always see a few enterprising folks with little red wagons, or one of those handy collapsible carts, filled with paper. But I wonder how much of that is ever going to be seen again. I know from going to the SHOT show for a lot of years that I have drastically reduced the amount of literature I pick up because I have to spend the better part of a day going through it when I get home. I keep asking myself, "Why did you pick that up?" and it ends up in the trash can. So if it isn't something you will use, don't take it in the first place.

From my perspective the people are almost as important as the products. It's a great opportunity to put a face with a name you know only over the phone and personal contacts in this industry are vital. If you've ever had a problem with a product it's nice to be able to call someone you know not a nameless, faceless voice - and explain things and seek resolution. The manufacturers are also a wonderful resource for marketing ideas. Of course it's in their interest to have you sell their product and personal contact is a great way to learn of special promotions, coop advertising and other services offered. But you have to ask for it.

One thing to be sure to take along is a plentiful supply of business cards. Almost every booth has a bowl or box where you can throw a card. Some use them for free drawings and some, but not all, use the collected cards for follow-up mailings. Maintaining a large mailing list is a complicated and expensive process that not all manufacturers follow, but you'd be surprised at the stuff that comes in the mail for the rest of the year. You'll also gather lots of other cards and these can be just as valuable as the literature. I always update my card file as soon as I get home because phone numbers change as well as job titles (and sometimes even companies). But business cards are not an advertising medium. Distributing them randomly in your hometown, for example, won't bring in much business. They are, instead a convenient filing medium to look up someone you want to get in touch with.

As we march boldly into the last decade of the twentieth century I think we must prepare ourselves for the inevitability of change in this industry. There will probably be fewer old-name gun companies at this SHOT show and some others will be there in spite of struggles to survive. Of course others prosper and their expanding product lines make it hard to decide what to have in inventory. Couple those changes with the entry into the marketplace of many new manufacturers.

Rumors will fly that some of the mass retailers you all complain so bitterly about may exit the gun business. If so, it may be a windfall opportunity for the suffering small dealer, but it won't be a free ride to profits. Lunch still ain't free, but there may be a little pie left when the plate reaches you. The little guy will have to invest his inventory dollars wisely and keep his finger firmly on the pulse of the demands of his specific clientele. The SHOT Show is a wonderful opportunity to observe trends in the industry, but don't let all the glitz and glitter fool you into buying something you can't sell.

And there are other important things to be seen and done at the SHOT Show. In case you haven't noticed, crime is epidemic in American and that bodes both good and ill for us. Crime sells guns as homeowners and citizens take on the task of defending themselves but some legislators mistakenly blame the gun instead of the criminal for the crime. Regrettably too, that belief is shared by some average citizens and we must do everything we can to improve both the image and the perception of the sport. Folks that want to do that will be at the show too, so spend a few minutes at the NRA booth. Each month we get some questions from somebody with the "poor me's" wanting us to do something about the political situation. With all due respect it isn't going to do any good to complain to me. I'm already on your side. Complain (politely of course) to your elected Federal, State and Local representatives. The NRA can tell you how.

The SHOT Show is only as useful as you make it and I promise that you'll finish the day on the show floor in an exhausted daze, but you may end up with invitations to one or more of the receptions that many of the big manufacturers have in the evening. In the trade this is known as "schmooze and booze" and they're a good opportunity to meet people in a more relaxed setting but they're often mob scenes and it may be possible to do nothing more than renew acquaintances.

Describing the whole SHOT Show experience requires adjectives like hectic or exciting (and very tiring) and it really helps to have a basic plan. It's also a good idea to arrange your travel schedule with some spare time because the airport is always a zoo on departure day and sometimes cabs and airport limos are hard to find too. But don't let any of this discourage you from going, it's a neat trip.
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Title Annotation:Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show
Author:Petty, Charles E.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Dec 1, 1990
Previous Article:Springfield went to the SHOT Show and a star was born.
Next Article:Working with the firearms press.

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