January 19, 2022
After many long months of anticipation, the 2022 SHOT Show welcomed enthusiastic crowds to The Venetian Expo and Caesars Forum in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.
There was no getting around the fact that the show has a different look and feel from the previous 22 times that SHOT Show has visited Las Vegas.
For starters, a number of the outdoor industry’s biggest names elected to sit this year’s show out, some due to COVID-19 concerns, others for business-model reasons.
And the attendance is certainly down at first glance. But perhaps not as down as some might have expected heading into this week, given the logistical challenges and ongoing surge of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
In fact, an Outdoor Sportsman Group colleague of mine indicated Tuesday afternoon that while foot traffic certainly looked to be down on the morning commute into the show floor, it wasn’t down as much as he might have previously expected given major players not being there, smaller support staffs in place, and even some having to bow out of the show in recent days due to illness.
My colleague wasn’t alone in that assessment, either. In fact, @StphenGutowski, a gun-safety instructor and reporter, tweeted similar thoughts on Tuesday that "SHOT Show, while not as busy as previous years, is getting pretty strong attendance. NSSF says 41,000 have registered as of today."
Pandemic, or not, the robust attendance this year in the face of the virus isn’t all that surprising in the minds of some.
"The SHOT Show is hugely important to our industry and its customers not only because the products and its customers not only because the products that are unveiled there are purchased by industry buyers but also for the educational networking opportunities the show provides," said NSSF President and CEO Joe Bartoozi, in a news release.
"It’s great to be back in Las Vegas to do business in-person at what will be our largest show ever. As our industry gathers at the SHOT Show, it’s notable that Americans are embracing their right to own firearms by purchasing them at record levels for target shooting, hunting and personal and family security."
Now in its 44th year, how does the 2022 SHOT Show compare to previous versions? Pretty favorably, especially to the Show’s humble beginnings back in 1979, when 290 exhibitors and 2,700 attendees descended upon the 52,153 square feet of exhibit space in St. Louis.
Compare that with recent years when there have been more than 2,000 exhibitors; upwards of 50,000 or more attendees; and in excess of 715,000-square feet of exhibit space being occupied in Las Vegas.
As recently as the 2020 SHOT Show--a few weeks prior to the pandemic's beginning surge across the U.S.--officials with the host National Shooting Sports Foundation (Link: www.nssf.org ) indicated that there were 2,400 exhibitors on the show floor, as well as exhibitors, buyers, industry officials, and media from all 50 states and as many as 115 countries.
Obviously, those numbers are taking a bit of a hit this year, but not enough to keep the SHOT Show—which is short for the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoors Trade Show—from even more expansion.
After last year's virtual show, the in-person return is seeing the show make a return appearance at The Venetian Expo, as well as move into the nearby Caesars Forum. Added together, the 2022 show has more than 13.9 miles of aisles--more than the distance of a half-marathon--and more than 800,000-net square feet of exhibit space, enough to park 547 F-6 fighter jets.
That's impressive, even for an industry that brought in more than $88 million in non-gaming revenue to the Las Vegas economy in 2020 prior to the pandemic’s arrival in the U.S. a couple of months later.
That's not surprising since the NSSF indicates that firearms and ammunition are a $7.1 billion industry in this country, bringing a total economic impact of more than $63 billion and supporting more than 342,000 jobs in the U.S. If anything, the firearms, and outdoors industry has gotten even stronger the past two years, even if travel and trade shows have suffered a bit.
Obviously, this year’s attendance figure is down a sizable amount from the 55,000 or so that made the trip in 2020, including more than 2,000 media members back then. Some of the attendance loss is to be expected given the shift in business models and methodology as companies continue to figure out the new paradigm of manufacturing, orders, and supply chain issues in the current and soon-to-be post-pandemic economy.
Other attendance loss at this week’s show is due to the fact that the virus is still widely circulating through our world with the current Omicron surge wreaking havoc since early December. In fact, a number of industry people who had planned on being in Las Vegas this week—yours truly, included—have been sidelined by the virus after recent attendance to other trade shows elsewhere in the country.
This is the unfortunate new reality that we all face, that our circumstances and health can all change on a moment’s notice, necessitating that having a Plan A, a Plan B, and maybe even a Plan C in place are all necessary parts of our new normal. But even in this era of COVID-19, the outdoors world goes on. And this week, at least, so does the SHOT Show too.