SHOT Show 2015 was the second-biggest ever. But that doesn’t mean it was the second best, says Chris Dolnack, National Shooting Sports Foundation’s senior vice-president and chief marketing officer.
If you were to look only at the number of people attending 2015 SHOT Show, then you might be tempted to think it came in second place.
Indeed it did. At 63,000-plus attendees, this year’s event posted the second-highest attendance record in the show’s history. But it turns out that “second-place” finish came with everything but a ticker-tape parade to celebrate its success.
Standing out from the crowd
Let’s start with that attendance number. Not only is 63,000 an enormous number of exhibitors – buyers, media members and other show guests, it turns out it’s a better number than the record high of 67,000.
Complaints about crowded aisles in the Sands Expo Center were down, as were those about booths and meeting spaces and just about every other aspect of a show that suffers from almost too big a crowd.
The word we heard most from exhibitors, most of whom had non-stop traffic and packed booths from open to close, was “manageable.”
We also heard that the crowd quality was higher, leading directly to a more productive show for exhibitors and buyers. That happened through a dedicated culling on NSSF’s part that removed more than 2,200 unqualified buyers from the guest roster and the effort paid off even for first-time show attendees.
“The show was beyond expectations,” Arthur Grant of Packin Fur Defense told us. “We found several suppliers willing to work with us despite our being a small start-up in the restricted southern California concealed-carry market space.
“We were able to find a distributor to work with, as well as a half dozen vendors who are new themselves to distributing to retailers. Even the Dodge exhibit was immeasurably helpful, not because of the trucks but rather because the business development lead helped us with a problem we have been working on for four months regarding our mobile-showroom concept. He likely saved me $40k by spending a good half-hour with us.”
The SHOT Show mobile app, sponsored solely by Daniel Defense, was also a big hit, proving this one small part of the show gets better each year.
“I just wanted to mention that the app for the iPhone for SHOT Show 2015 was very useful,” said Sam Rivers, who travelled from Georgetown, Texas, for the show. “It had all the exhibitor info I needed and helped me navigate to the booths I was interested in. Great app!”
It wasn’t just the show floor that got rave reviews. Every one of our dozen Retailer Seminars was sold out to capacity, as was SHOT Show University, while many press conferences were filled to standing room only.
NSSF’s press conference announcing our research department’s newest report, “Women Gun Owners: Purchasing, Perceptions and Participation,” was still turning people away at the door 20 minutes into the presentation.
Several other areas of the show displayed remarkable growth. The New Product Center had more than 600 products on exhibit, double that from 2014, but the real boost there came in the product scans: 28,000 versus 8,500 from last year.
Our International Buyer’s Program was another event that doubled its participation. With delegations from 15 countries attending the program’s International Trade Center and the B2B Matchmaking and Showtime components, we were very pleased to see so many members of our industry actively investigating new and unique ways to expand their businesses and thinking outside the box.
That this program was just in a pilot stage two years ago and is now a fully fledged component of SHOT Show proves that the mom-and-pop culture our industry used to run on is being replaced by forward-thinking, creative businessmen and women, something that will secure our industry’s continued success in future years.
The brand-new SHOT Show Store was another success and nearly sold out, with hundreds of compliments pouring in from attendees happy to have a tangible memory to take home from an event so important to them and their livelihoods.
And we’d certainly be remiss if we didn’t mention the wild success of Bill Engvall’s performance at the State of the Industry Dinner, yet another sold-out event. Not only did Bill step up after the rather pathetic withdrawal by Jay Leno, he delivered an outstanding comic routine that had the crowd holding their sides with laughter.
There are hundreds more tales of success from the 2015 SHOT Show, far more than we have room for here. That makes this year’s ‘second-place’ better than any blue ribbon we’ve ever got – and makes all of us here at NSSF look forward to doing it all even better next year.