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2021 SHOT Show Falls Victim to Ongoing Pandemic

The popular firearms trade show in Las Vegas has been shuttered due to COVID-19.

2021 SHOT Show Falls Victim to Ongoing Pandemic

The 2020 SHOT Show last January in Las Vegas attracted more than 60,000 attendees and covered 16 acres of floor space. (Photo by Scott Bernarde)

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in many corners of the world, the outdoors world has certainly not been immune to the effects of the coronavirus.

With some industry members contracting the virus and falling ill, others having to forego plans to travel abroad for hunting and fishing trips, and one outdoors show after another closing down, the year 2020 has been anything but normal.

When the news broke Friday that the upcoming 2021 SHOT Show in Las Vegas was being cancelled, it wasn't a surprise.

Even so, that didn't make it any easier to swallow, particularly for those who love seeing what's new in the shooting, hunting, and outdoors world every January at the highly anticipated trade show.

Despite the difficulty in calling the show off, cancelling the 42nd SHOT Show just simply had to be done in the end, according to National Shooting Sports Foundation president & CEO Joe Bartozzi in a news release.

"Due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the world, NSSF, the firearm industry trade association, today makes the difficult announcement that the 2021 SHOT Show has been cancelled," Bartozzi said.

"NSSF has remained in constant communication with Nevada officials throughout the year in our planning for the 2021 show," Bartozzi continued. "While there has been a concerted effort to expand the allowable levels for large gatherings by the county and state, with positivity rates peaking during our key planning period, we have made the difficult decision to cancel the 2021 show.

"Sadly, these spikes are currently transpiring worldwide. Given the sheer complexities, diminishing timeline and immense logistical planning required to conduct a trade show as large as SHOT, NSSF simply could not move forward at this point with so many unknowns and variables.

"We truly appreciate the guidance of Nevada and Las Vegas officials in allowing us to communicate this news to our exhibitors and attendees well in advance of the show. We would also like to thank the Sands (Expo Center) directly for their help and efforts to navigate this unprecedented situation."

The sobering announcement wasn't a surprise, given the shuttering of so many other large gatherings and outdoor shows in recent months. Since the coronavirus outbreak began its deadly spread across the U.S. in March, events ranging from the National Rifle Association's Annual Meeting to the Pope and Young Club Convention to the Ducks Unlimited Expo to the ICAST fishing trade show to the International Fly Tackle Dealer Show to the ATA Archery Trade Show have all been cancelled because of travel restrictions, health mandates and business difficulties brought on by the pandemic.

Still, the loss of the Jan. 19-22, 2021 SHOT Show at Las Vegas' Sands Expo Center and Caesars Forum, is the biggest blow of all to the outdoors industry, if for no other reason for its sheer size.

As one of the largest trade shows in America, the SHOT Show--or more technically, the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show--is the largest event held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center each year. In fact, so large that in 2021, the host NSSF was going to open up more floor space at Caesars Forum, a move made necessary by how many exhibitors, buyers, and media members attend.


How big is the annual SHOT Show? Earlier this year, it was noted in this space that in addition to more than 60,000 attendees and 2,400+ media members from around the globe, the total exhibit space for the show was expected to be more than 692,000 net square feet, a measurement that is equivalent to nearly 16 acres of space.

The 2019 SHOT Show a year earlier also had more than 12.5 miles of aisle space covered, just a little less than the distance of a half marathon. In one frequently mentioned statistic from previous shows, show organizers have said that in order to see all the booths at the SHOT Show each year, an attendee can spend only a few minutes in each booth during the show's four-day long run.

SHOT Show 2021
The popular SHOT Show is the largest event held at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas each year.(Photo by Scott Bernarde)

Yeah, that's big, even for an industry as big as the Great Outdoors. But even with the show serving as the launch pad for new hunting, shooting, and outdoors products every year, the ongoing health crisis around the world eventually scuttled the show's 22nd run in Las Vegas, which annually brings in more than $80 million in non-gaming revenue to the famous sparkling city in the southern Nevada desert.

With NSSF and its various partners deep in the planning process for months in the face of the global pandemic and its need for travel restrictions and social distancing, show organizers said that floor space for the event was still near a sell-out three months in advance of the 2021 gathering.

While there was no indication in the NSSF's statement today about any sort of virtual event being planned in place of the 2021 SHOT Show, there will undoubtedly be efforts similar to those conducted by companies like Outdoor Sportsman Group, which helped bring countless new fishing and boating products to the outdoors world in July 2020 when the annual ICAST fishing trade show in Orlando was scrubbed. And like similar plans being put together for product unveilings early next year for the recently cancelled ATA Show, expect to hear more about virtual efforts to bring SHOT Show new products to the world in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, the hard work to put on the 2021 SHOT Show will now shift to hitting the restart button for the next event, a show currently scheduled for Jan. 18-21, 2022 in Las Vegas.

"All of this positions us for a 2022 SHOT Show that will be undoubtedly the best in our industry's history, and we look forward to bringing our entire community together again at a show that will be one to remember," stated Bartozzi.

Let's hope so, but for different reasons. Because as anyone who has had a pulse this year can attest to, the year 2020 has been memorable for sure, but almost entirely for all of the wrong reasons.

In the meantime, do what you can to help support the outdoors industry through gear purchases, conservation group donations, political support, and by just simply getting outdoors responsibly, buying a license, and going hunting and fishing.

Because all of that will help, even if the SHOT Show can't do so for another year.

"During the coming year, NSSF asks for our industry’s unwavering support as we continue our fight to promote, protect and preserve our industry in these unsettling times," said Bartozzi.

Because to borrow from a tired cliché in a wearisome year, tough times don't last, but the outdoors seems to always be there, right? So get out and enjoy it all responsibly, because like the sunrise promise seen from a deer stand, a duck blind, or a bass rig, better days will one day be ahead.

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