January 10, 2023
By Lynn Burkhead
It's back to business in Indy this week as the Archery Trade Association’s annual ATA Trade Show seeks to get dialed in for the new year. The bowhunting trade show runs Wednesday through Friday (Jan. 11-13) at the Indiana Convention Center.
It’s also a week to see if the show gets back to full-scale normal after the last 24 months brought a significant amount of upheaval in the bowhunting industry. That includes 2021, when the show was forced to take the year off due to the worldwide effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year in January, the 25th annual ATA Show returned for a Jan. 7-9 run at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky. But even in doing so, like so many other things in our world since the pandemic, there were some changes to adjust to, including the absence of some of the industry's biggest brands.
While the 2022 show certainly had its moments, an industry that had spent a year in the online and virtual world was forced to deal with the ongoing uncertainty of the pandemic and a nervous in-person gathering for the show’s silver anniversary. Add in the menacing presence of the Omicron wave of the pandemic—some people, including yours truly, came down with the virus after the show—and there was definitely a noticeable drop in attendance, both in exhibitor booths on the show floor and people walking up and down the aisles.
A significant snowstorm to the south of Bourbon Country caused some travel issues, but those who were coming to the show were coming, snowstorm or not, and the in the end, the 2022 version of the ATA Show went on with a degree of normalcy after Churchill Downs bugler Steve Buttleman sounded the familiar call to post heard every May at the nearby Kentucky Derby.
In their post-event analysis, ATA officials indicated that the 2022 show drew 4,302 individuals. There were also a reported 548 retail accounts interacting with more than 450 exhibitors. In addition to the buyers and exhibitors, several non-profit groups like the Pope and Young Club were in attendance, along with media members like those with Outdoor Sportsman Group.
If you were a regular at the show before the coronavirus upended the world in March 2020, then last year's show certainly seemed a bit slower and leaner than previous shows. Add in the frustrating supply-chain issues and delivery schedules that plagued every industry over the last couple of years, and there were whispers about how the show might fare in the future.
But perspective is also an important consideration, since those who had never been to the show thought 2022 was tremendous. That includes the likes of Jeff and Ashley Bussell, first-time retail attendees from Brush Mountain Outfitters in Texas. The Bussells indicated to the Archery Trade Association that they had a great show, finally making the bucket-list kind of business trip after 19 years of being in business.
"We had a lot of fun," said Jeff in a news release. "We saw a lot of the people I’ve talked to for years and have great relationships with. It was good to see our reps and the people we’ve emailed over the past two years because of COVID. Other retailers said the show was a little slow, but from our perspective, it was great."
And that's not just idle talk since the couple picked up three new product lines, saw lots of products firsthand, and firmed up a number of key business relationships. While the Bussells didn’t attend any of the show’s educational events, they said they were satisfied with their experience and plan on attending the show in future years.
What's in Store for 2023 Show?
The 2023 version marks the 12th time the show comes to Indy, which was to host the 25th anniversary show in '21 before the pandemic scrubbed those plans. Next year’s show is set for St. Louis. Other cities to host ATA were Louisville, Columbus, Nashville and Atlanta.
ATA officials have steadily maintained that numbers are running ahead of last year. A glance at the show’s exhibitor roster shows that some major players in the bowhunting industry are not in attendance this year, companies that weren't a part of the event in 2022 either. But other companies that skipped last year's show due to health and/or business concerns are returning this year, and there's the hope that this year's show is another step back towards normalcy.
With the worst of the pandemic seemingly behind us now, the guess here is that the 2023 ATA Show will take that step this week in Indy. In recent months, outdoor events like the Bassmaster Classic have been full, the 2022 ICAST Show in Orlando last summer took a noticeable step forward in attendance and energy, and other full-throttle outdoor events are planned this year, too, including the 2023 SHOT Show next week in Las Vegas. That doesn’t mean that the threat from the virus is fully gone, but as best as it can, the world—including the outdoors portion of it—has done its best to move forward.
Because while the virus may always be out there lurking, and even in light of the fact that we can do some things in a virtual setting, that’s not the way we’re going to move forward. Because ever since the beginning of creation, human beings crave being together, shaking hands, sharing meals, laughing, and enjoying each other's stories and company, sometimes around a campfire.
And in the bowhunting industry, getting to see colleagues and old friends, to actually see a product with our own two eyes, put our hands on it to see if it works, and simply enjoy the community that the outdoors world can provide is all vitally important.
Because of that, and so much more, the ATA Show is back once again, for a downtown Indy gathering where the archery world comes together again, for three days of talking, buying, and celebrating the world of bows, arrows, broadheads, and big game animals slipping through the woods.
And as always, we’ll be there to chronicle the ATA Show with online stories, videos, and social media posts, bringing you industry news, new product information, and features about the annual gathering of archers and the bowhunting industry.
It promises to be a great week in Indy, and we'll keep you informed right here at GameandFishMag.com.