Friday, February 20, 2015

I Like the Way The Gun Industry Looks Now

I Like the Way The Gun Industry Looks Now

This was the first year in many that Mrs Pandemic had attended a SHOT Show. Frankly, I had been concerned that she would go off on someone again about the “need” for booth babes. I most concern that a blow up would occur due to the uncourteous emissions from the dude in the Hoveround cutting her off in mid sentence to ask for a free hat while creepily ogling the booth babe… really there was an event a few years back that ended with her screaming “eat a salad you misogynistic tchotchke hunting fat...” and there were other words. Mrs. Pandemic claims of course she was more polite, however I do remember security following us around for a few isles.

The last couple years, I was happy to come back and report to her that there were significantly fewer “booth babes” than ever and the weight and health of attendees was greatly improved. With all the cut beefcake (her words not mine) military folks running around, the general populace of the show was also extremely polite. So this year she relented with a marginal interest in seeing what was new with the expectation that she would be "less annoyed".

My reports were not exaggerated with a stunning number of women (shooters/buyers) in attendance. There were a TON of female team sponsored shooters and female celebs busily running around as the main attraction at events including the likes of Sarah Palin, Kirsten Joy Weiss, and Dana Loesch. My favorite female shooter, Julie Golob, was everywhere but it seemed always either arms reach away or busy hosting, so I missed speaking with her this year. I am very happy to report that SHOT show is no longer a men's convention. Its a good thing too. Most of the top Shooting Hunting and Outdoor PR agencies are female run, a very high percentage of marketing and purchasing department heads are female in the industry, and then of course there is the huge growth of the female professional and casual shooter segment. Manufacturers should be and, generally, are taking note of how woman are driving the next wave of sales.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation Infographics report female target, hunting, and defensive shooters are up; like WAY up. If those infographics do not convince you as a manufacturer to turn your attention and marketing to the female shooter, I am not sure what proof you need. Manufacturers need to make a decision as to whether they want to be a financially poor, high speed tactical products company targeting the very small and already over-served government SPEC ops target market or whether they want to prosper with products that everyone, including the growing female segment, want to buy.

There is a segment of female shooters who like pink and purple pistols, however I don't know any female shooters who crave a pink gun outside of something fun, nor do they believe pink makes a gun perfect for females. What they want are ergonomics, fit and features that fit their lifestyle which is not one size up pant sizes and dumpy loose fitting tactical concealment shirts. Personally, I think Glock is the only company in the market who has targeted the female segment properly with the introduction of the G42 and the female focused ads for the last couple years. Look at the sale of the G42 and the proportional number of those pistols in female hands. The G42 was not only a home run design, but a now legendary product intro that sent Glock sales into orbit… again

2014 was not what 2013 was from a sales perspective in the firearms industry and I believe 2015 will be even tougher for many companies who do not embrace and specifically target the "Female demographic". With all this industry data of the receding spend of the "male demographic", I still found it amazing that there were a few "Silicone and Spandex" booth babes still on the SHOT show floor obviously targeting males. It was Vegas, do we really need sexism at a professional business convention when you are already surrounded by it from every angle in the city? According to my informal survey of female professionals at the show, you do not.

Century Arms had two totally useless bimbos in spandex and crotch length mini-shirts who according to my wife spent their time either on their phone texting, bitching about all the pervs walking around, or talking about how freaking lame this gig was while I was talking with my PR contact there. Congrats girls, I sent an email to Century Arms and asked that they dedicate those dollars used for "rent an idiot" to USB media kits next year. In most cases, I have found that scantily clad eye candy usually have to look at the name on the booth to answer the question of which manufacturer they are representing and only clutter up valuable space in a booth with the wrong element of "buyers and media attendees".

We are getting there slowly. I did see a big trend to have some of these same pretty faced girls don a company polo with jeans. More tasteful? Yes, but hardly effective when the chick interrupts me mid-sentence to check the Facebook update on her iPhone as I ask who the media contact is... yes that happened to me this year and yes I did storm out of their booth boisterously noting they will be out of business in a year. The pretty faced booth worker bee can be marginally effective if they are trained and can perform traffic routing duties of who should talk to who or if they know at least what is new. Manufacturers need to realize that the time and money of everyone at SHOT is too valuable to not have at the very least a 15 second pitch of what is new memorized.

What I thought was most refreshing was seeing all the pro male/female shooters at each booth signing autographs and talking about why they like the brand and why. These folks are relevant to the brands and offer value. Maybe manufacturers should spend that $1000 for the silicone rent-an-idiot and sponsor any female or youth 3Gun shooter. That would be more valuable. Although I am not a manufacturer, I backed Nate Staskiewicz National 3Gun Junior Champion from a sponsorship perspective and I will say it was money well spent. Nate gives me some valuable 3Gun perspective on products and is frankly rocking it on the range. Nate by the way just made the Pro ranks and I am proud to say my logo is on his right shoulder. If I was a manufacturer, which would have been the better investment? A Jr Champion who is now a pro shooter with my product or the same money spend on eye candy at SHOT.

We have moved a long way from bikini girls posing with machine guns to the best shooters in the industry being female with $150,000 a year professional sponsorships and hosting television shows.  Woman are the key to changing minds about guns around the country and I Like the Way the Gun Industry Looks Now.

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