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The IWA '89 show Nuremberg, West Germany.


Do manufacturers in the United States take for granted the marketing ease and access to the consumer in the domestic firearms market? What, if, the official attitude was one where self-protection was not a legitimate need for possession of any firearm and the acquisition of all firearms had to be justified to the local, state, and federal authorities before purchase? Would there still be a vibrant interest in the market place for firearms despite strong governmental barriers against ownership?

You bet there would be. All you have to do to answer those questions is look to the Western European countries; and, the best place to examine the various firearms markets for the private consumer in Western Europe is the IWA show held every year in Nuremberg, West Germany.

IWA stands for International Trade Fair for Hunting and Sporting Arms and Accessories and it was held this year (as it is every year) at Nuremberg, West Germany from March 17th to March 20th.

IWA is a show for sporting arms and the emphasis is on "sporting arms" as most of Western Europe does not allow the private citizen the right to use a firearm for self-protection. Therefore all firearms must have a "sporting" purpose; be it target shooting in any of various disciplines, or for use in hunting. The only exception to this sporting purpose requirement is Switzerland which, some commentators feel, may have more liberal gun laws than most of the United States.

While West Germany has about 30 companies that manufacture hunting and sporting arms and ammunition, the shooters that use these products in West Germany run a gauntlet of regulations in order to satisfy the requirements necessary for possession of a firearm. A hunter must have a West German hunting license before he can own a centerfire hunting rifle, but to get the license requires membership in a shooting club and about three or four years of schooling. Even then the hunter must pass a battery of tests that evaluate his marksmanship, and knowledge of the laws and habits of game animals.

That genre of firearms so much in the news in this country recently is almost unheard of in Western Europe as there are few countries that allow the possession of a military or paramilitary rifle. There are few privately owned paramilitary rifles in West Germany, and France forbids the possession of a rifle in a military caliber. Although manufacturers selling in France have worked around this stipulation by offering semi-auto centerfire rifles that would normally be chambered in 5.56mm NATO in the alternative and legal .222 Remington cartridge.

Italy, likewise, forbids the possession of any firearm in a military caliber and this has led to the creation of completely new cartridges for those handguns that would usually be found in 9mm Parabellum and .45 ACP. The most common being the 9mm IMI as it is a 9mm cartridge with a case that is 2mm longer than the 19mm length of the 9mm Parabellum, while the .45 HP is 1mm shorter than the .45 ACP cartridge. Since the overall length is the same for both the cartridges work well in guns designed for the forbidden military rounds.

This makes it easy to understand the importance of sporting weapons and the marketing approaches used to capture the attention of dealers attending this show. It is only natural to compare IWA to the American SHOT Show, but there is very little to compare.

IWA is much smaller even with this year's expanded display area of 14,178 square meters for the 569 companies that were listed as direct exhibitors and the 186 additional registered exhibitors. Compare this to the 1989 SHOT Show's over 300,000 square feet of exhibitors area and the 1,100 companies that rent display booths and you can see that the SHOT Show is over twice as large, but there is an important difference. The SHOT Show is in the United States and IWA is in Western Europe, and if you want to market in Europe, IWA is the place to start.

The IWA show does not rotate to a different city every year like the SHOT Show but is based permanently in Nuremberg. Travel in West Germany is convenient and inexpensive if you wish to use the rail system as you will discover in Frankfurt, West Germany that the train terminal is in the basement of the airport itself and the cost of a ticket to Nuremberg is reasonable. Go first-class and enjoy both the scenery and the ride as train service in W. Germany is superior.

European trade shows have a distinct difference from their

American counterparts in that they have a slower and more refined pace. (But don't expect to dress as casually as you would for the SHOT Show because the Old World preference for proper attire is still present.) The IWA show goes on for four days for a show that is half the size of the SHOT Show and the aisles between displays are seldom crowded making the IWA show a relaxed and more enjoyable experience than the rush and frenzy of the SHOT Show.

Noticeably absent at IWA were exposed areas of beautifully seductive flesh from frequently encountered, but well endowed models, as no companies employed scantily clad cuties to attract attention. Instead, attractive young ladies wearing sensible business attire who could pass for business associates were seen at many booths, to both translate and explain the booth's products. The significance was on product knowledge and to do that it was more important for the merchandiser to have someone who could translate any of several languages likely to be encountered than to have someone who would attract business into the booth because of a ribald impulse.

Many American firms already feel it is essential to attend the IWA show for successful marketing in the Western European countries. Some firms like Smith & Wesson, Ballisti-Cast, and Schrade maintain offices in Europe for quick and efficient sales throughout Western Europe while many others are represented by various firms and merchandisers in each of the particular countries. Other firms like Springfield Armory have reciprocal relationships with firms like Peters Stahl of W. Germany that markets their products in W. Europe while they market the reciprocal European products in this country.

This interest in the European market has had an impact on domestic sales for those producers residing in Western Europe. An economic summary prepared for the press at the IWA show was pessimistic in its economic outlook for 1989 because of lackluster sales due to "foreign competition". The Association of Manufacturers of Hunting and Sporting Arms and Ammunition reported that the situation in trade for 1988 had scarcely changed from that in 1987. That production and turnover figures had stagnated and profits for many European companies was unsatisfactory. The association placed the blame on a continuing quiet trading situation in the various domestic markets inside Europe and the strong competition in foreign markets.

Statistics from the domestic sporting arms trade in W. Germany for the months of January to September of 1988 roughly corresponded to that for all of 1987 (DM 198 million for arms and arms components versus DM 197 million), but ammunition sales for the domestic W. German sales sank from DM 138 million in 1987 to DM 120 million for this same period in 1988.

The association also noted an increase in imports into W. Germany, while exports decreased. 1988 saw an arms and arms components export level of DM 168 million which was about the same as the previous year, but exports of ammunition in 1988 fell to DM 96 million from DM 102 million recorded in 1987 while imports rose. W. Germany imported DM 76 million worth of arms and arms components in 1988 which was a significant increase over the DM 67 million figure for 1987, but it was the importation of ammunition that saw the greatest increase as West Germans imported DM 40 million worth of ammo in 1988 against the DM 29 million in 1987.

All of this illustrates just how fertile the business environment is in Western Europe for competitive priced firearms and firearms associated products from the United States. Bill Jenson, the International Marketing Manager for Smith & Wesson, gave away two awards and two engraved Smith & Wesson revolvers to their two distributors sold more than $1,000,000 (U.S. dollars) of Smith & Wesson products in the last calendar year. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is the fact that firearms regulations in W. Germany can restrict the number of guns owned and the calibers of these firearms. Yet, the Smith & Wesson distributors were able to continually increase sales of the S&W product line.

Part of this success story is obviously the result of monetary policy and the relatively weak dollar in comparison to various domestic currencies, but it is also because of Smith & Wesson's commitment to international sales. Paul Kern is Smith & Wesson's Regional Sales Manager for Europe and he is based in Liege, Belgium. Paul Kern is a quiet professional from Idaho who speaks French, German, and Spanish and is well liked by his European customers. To illustrate this fact it should be mentioned that Paul has a West German hunting license which is absolutely unheard of for an American regardless of whom the employer may be. Smith & Wesson looks seriously at the European market and views the IWA show as an important element in their marketing strategy.

Others who find the IWA show equally rewarding include Federal Cartridge Company as their Minnesota-based representative Michael Bussard was present throughout the entire show and busy every moment answering questions, concerns and inviting new business. Mike Bussard is an exceptional individual who has stored a vast warehouse of knowledge about European history in his brain, and in the off hours - away from the Exhibition Hall - can entertain you for hours with intimate and interesting details about various locations throughout Europe.

Bill Blankenship was present at the Colt booth to answer questions for Colt's customers in Western Europe and the Colt booth was also busy and crowded every minute of the IWA show. Winchester Ammunition was well represented by Browning S.A. and had a large display area for its product line.

While my own interest lies mostly with firearms and firearm-related products, one could not avoid noticing such American firms as Bear Archery, Pro Line Co., Saxon Arms, Inc., and many others who were marketing their archery products at the Nuremberg show. Knife companies that were well represented included Gerber, Camillus Cutlery, Buck Knives, and the firm that manufacturers the Rambo Knife - Gil Hibbons.

The area of reloading tools and presses seems to be particularly American in nature as the process of reloading oversees suffers more legal restrictions than here in the U.S.A. Although there were products and presses to be seen from Australia and European countries the majority of displays by various distributors featured American products such as RCBS, Dillion, Lee Precision, Hornady, and Lyman.

All of this goes to show that products from American manufacturers can compete in head to head competition if a strong marketing strategy is followed, but it is not a market that can be handled successfully by an overseas telephone call. The time differential of at least six hours is one of the handicaps against that. For American companies that wish to market firearms and outdoor related products in Europe it takes people and a deep interest in both the customer and the local customs along with the occasional assist of someone fluent in different languages to achieve a successful sales program, but regardless of how many languages the sales people speak the IWA show is a vital ingredient in any European sales program. Bill Jenson of Smith & Wesson may have said it best when he said, "If you want to sell in Europe, but don't attend the IWA show you're not serious about the European market."

PHOTO : The International Trade Fair for Hunting and Sporting Arms and Accessories (IWA) is held every year in Nuremberg, West Germany.

PHOTO : Representatives of the AKAH Albrecht Kind GmbH & Co. in West Germany accept a presentation grade engraved Smith & Wesson Model 629 and plaque for selling over $1,000,000 of S & W products in the past calendar year, 1988, from Smith & Wesson's International Marketing Manager Bill Jenson and from Smith & Wesson's Regional Sales Manager Paul Kern

PHOTO : Colt's Bill Blankenship was on hand to help Colt's European customers see the new Delta Elite models in 10mm and other Colt handguns.

PHOTO : Springfield Armory and Peters Stahl have a reciprocal marketing agreement in that Springfield Armory markets the Stahl products in the United States while Stahl markets the Springfield Armory products in Europe. Stahl representatives stated that production for the first 50 pistols will be completed in August of '89 for the ultra-expensive Omega 2000 high capacity handgun.

PHOTO : Smith & Wesson had a large number of new products on display including their new Model 4516 and the Model 625-2. Sources tell S&W will send 1,500 of the 5,000 unit run of the 625-2 to Western Europe.
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Title Annotation:International Trade Fair for Hunting and Sporting Arms and Accessories
Author:James, Frank W.
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Oct 1, 1989
Previous Article:1989 footwear and waders for hunters.
Next Article:An official source for reloading informationis the NRMA.

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