SHOT Show on target for triumphant return

There’s probably not a single business on Earth that didn’t go through some kind of trauma in the last year-and-a-half due to the coronavirus pandemic. That drum has been banged to death, so there’s no need to dwell on it – what’s more important is how your company bounces back from the setbacks, whatever they may be. That’s something that’s only too familiar to the guest on the first-ever episode of the brand-new Gun Trade World podcast, Chris Dolnack. Chris is the senior vice president and chief customer officer of the United States’ firearm industry association the NSSF, which organises the annual SHOT Show trade show. When the pandemic struck, certain changes were forced upon the NSSF and, like many of the members it has helped through these trying times, it had to make changes in order to ensure its long-term survival.

“Immediately after SHOT Show 2020 we went to a fully remote workforce, as many businesses here in the United States did,” Chris says. “Our IT department did a fantastic job anticipating that and introducing the tools we needed to enable our team to work fantastically well remotely. From that point we were tracking developments worldwide on the pandemic and specifically within the trade show fraternity. In the run up to the 2021 SHOT Show, it became obvious that we would not be able to move forward with the restrictions in place in the country and internationally at that time.”

The team at the NSSF had to take the hugely difficult decision to cancel the 2021 edition of the event, and also make some other very tough calls such as reducing its staff by about 20 per cent and cutting back on sponsorship and advertising. But that hardship and that reassessment of how the organisation worked has helped it come back stronger than ever before. Chris explains: “We have learned that we needed to change the way in which we engaged with our members. We’ve upped our communications and personalised them. We are now spending a lot more time and concerted effort making outbound calls to our members to check in on them and see how we can help them, as opposed to just sending out x amount of many emails a week. We have learned to have a more personal touch, which has led to our membership retention rate increasing from roughly 60 per cent to about 80 per cent. We are putting out more education and advice than ever before, because in helping our members navigate this big disruption, we have learned that more of that is what they want.”

Many of the other lessons that the NSSF has taken on board in the last two years will be evident at the eagerly anticipated SHOT Show 2022 event in Las Vegas from 18th to 21st January. It will be the largest SHOT Show ever, with an expansion of the show floor into the Caesars Forum, which is connected to Venetian Expo via a walk bridge. The New Product Showcase will have its own room within Caesars Forum and will be greatly expanded compared to previous years. There will also be an outdoor area that will allow better opportunities for buyers and attendees to try out products. The show will also have outdoor ride along experiences and a field dog feature. All of the polling that SHOT Show has done since its last event points towards visitors wanting to have more exclusive experiences when attending, so that is what will be duly delivered this year.  

“We have a very tactile audience,” explains Chris. “People want to touch and feel products – feel how the gun goes to the shoulder, feel the trigger pull, pull the zippers, inspect the stitching, and so on. All our polling has shown that our community really misses the networking opportunities and the learning from one another that a real-life event brings.

“But what’s more important is that SHOT Show is the one place you can go where you can see everything, and everyone connected to your businesses to get a competitive edge. You can speak with the CEO of a company; you can speak with the engineer who designed a product. When you get back to your shop and a customer comes in, you can give them the essential information they need right from the horse’s mouth.

“The SHOT Show is like the Super Bowl, Christmas day and the World Cup all rolled into one for our community – it’s a gathering of the tribes, people come from all over the world. We’re like-minded and we have a love and passion for hunting, shooting and firearms ownership, and no other single event engenders that sense of community like the SHOT Show does.”

Listen to the full interview with Chris Dolnack on the all-new Gun Trade World Podcast. Simply click on your desired link below:



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