Wednesday, November 02, 2005

AMEN Brother Jim!

This from this morning's Outdoor Wire, the daily business update from Jim Shepherd:
The National Sporting Goods Association has released their Sports Participation Survey for 2004. While we hear the continued cry of diminishing participation in the outdoors, their statistics seem to contradict that position - if you remove hunting and fishing, the numbers actually look positive.

Hunting, fishing and power boating, long drivers of the "outdoor" economy's big participation numbers, all experienced declines in NSGA's 2004 numbers (1.1, 3.6 and 5.9 percent, respectively).

There were other areas where the news was better.
And even with a drop in firearms - hunting firearms, that is - there are three areas of growth inside the shooting category. They might indicate a need for the shooting "industry" to look more outside the hunting category to reach -and recruit - shooters.

The now-familiar mantra "we must increase hunting in order to grow the firearms industry" doesn't seem to be borne out when you see double-digit growth in muzzleloading (12.1%), target shooting (7%) and paintball (28%). In fact, their growth just might contra-indicate the wisdom of centering a majority of the firearms industry's recruitment and retention efforts on hunting.

If you accept the NASG numbers, they would indicate that people are more than willing to give shooting sports a try, they're just not trying areas where industry leadership is accustomed to looking.

That might not be a popular position, but it's hard to argue with the numbers.

Further, using the NASG's numbers, there are one-point-five million (1,500,000) more people target shooting than hunting. There's quite likely some double-counting across these segments, but it would seem to indicate a need for more outreach to the blackpowder and target shooting groups. From a purely business perspective, target shooting - whether with muzzleloader or traditional firearm - would seem to represent a market for sales of significantly more ammunition, cleaning supplies and other "pure shooting" accessories than hunting.
Our own numbers prove that the shooting sports numbers are growing while hunting is flat or declining. Yet NSSF, our industry trade group, continues to focus EXCLUSIVELY on hunting as a way of growing the sport. I am starting to hear grumbling from VERY highly placed honchos within the industry over NSSF's continued obsession with hunting — even some insiders who are themselves very active hunters and proponents of hunting! It's probably not going to help matters that NSSF's latest initiative, presently in production, is a 30-minute "infomercial" on using preserves to introduce kids to bird hunting.

I feel — and I've conveyed this to NSSF — that high-fence "hunting" is a very slippery slope. Right now, we have the public more-or-less with us on hunting as part of our American heritage and, IMO, a slight trend in the positive direction. But when people think of hunting, they think of fair chase hunting — Bambi has a chance to get away, and we have a chance to get skunked. If we shift a portion of the emphasis to preserves — that is, a fenced or otherwise contained area where animals are bred, fed and "managed" exclusively for hunting — that has implications for those already flat/declining numbers, because the public isn't going to stay with us. I've shot on preserves and filmed on preserves; I'm not anti-preserve hunting! But IMO it is the ABSOLUTE WRONG DIRECTION for us as an industry to be headed in!!!


Anonymous said...

One aspect of "organized shooting", whether Cowboy, IPSC, black powder, or such that never seems to impress itself on the industry is that these activities are not seasonal. Hunting normally has seasonal restrictions, and sales show decided increases around those seasons, but with more marketing directed at the organised shooting sports, many production lines could be "evened out" over the year.

Anonymous said...

Heh. "...whether with muzzleloader or traditional firearm..." That's not a phrase I would expect to hear. Apparently, everyone was using cartridge firearms for hundreds of years, then this new upstart muzzleloader came along...


Anonymous said...

I would not put too many eggs in the muzzleloader basket. As with archery products, technology is ever changing and stagnant inventory is an anchor around a lot of necks at all levels of the supply chain as the newest thing comes out. Blackpowder rifles have begun to stagnate much like bolt guns in the past 24 months. The surge in blackpowder rifle sales in the past five years probably has more to do with new seasons and a revamping of rules regarding "primitive" weapons by various state's departments of natural resources/game commissions. This trend is swerved into the absurd this year in Mississippi with the approval of the use of break open type 45/70 caliber rifles.

Middle Man

Michael Bane said...

The current oddly skewed view of the firearms industry is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. The HUGE hunting accessories secondary market — think cammo underwear — is the tail. The accessories market was the first to really stake out turf in the electronic media and the more traditional hook-and-bullet magazines, who happily went along with the idea and advertising that hunters were an unlimited well of accessoriy dollars.

We're now in the odd situation that one of America's most venerable hunting rifle manufacturer is on the EDGE of bankruptcy, because while hunters might buy new cammie, new deer piss scent remover, new 45-second turbo game skinners every year, what they DON'T buy is guns and ammo.

OTOH, *WE* buy the guns and ammo, but we don't buy traditional accessories , so we are in effect invisible to the industry.

This was hammered into my head by one of the Powers-That-Be in the industry, who was getting ready to take a hunting trip for exotic bear to Umgawhwaastan or one of those other vowel-y countries of eastern Europe. He outlined his purchases for the trip, which ran to more than $2500, not including the one gun or 40 rounds (TWO whole boxes...count 'em!) of ammo he was taking.

I on the other hand hadn't bought a SINGLE expensive accessory in the previous 12-month period. I had, however, bought six guns (4 handguns; 2 lever action rifles), 7,500 rounds of ammo, enough reloading components to keep the Umgawhwaastani Army in bullets for 6 months and stacks of paper and cardboard targets. I had traveled to 2 out-of-state matches, paid hundreds of dollars in match entry fees, paid annual memberships in 3 shooting sports organizations, took one weekend shooting class and bought probably half a dozen books and videos from Amazon.

So why should the firearms industry give a CRAP about me??? I'm not a good consumer — at least, not by their standards!


Anonymous said...

The problem with selling guns as-such is, except for serious competition shooters, they basically never wear out. So then the manufacturers either need to expand the audience or come out with something new enough and different enough that people will want it.

Traditionally, that's been done with new and different rifle calibers.. but iffen you're not going to hunt anything, how many of those do you desire?

The handgun trend to "everybody makes a .45 ACP 1911" seems somewhat counter-productive long-term unless those 1911s can be leveraged into shooting sports participants that then might want to branch out into other calibers and designs.

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