Author: Cassie Gasaway
The ATA Show’s early January setting provided the perfect opportunity for ATA members to hit the year running. Members varied in their confidence with order writing, product availability and supply chain issues but were excited to reunite in person.
“Being back in person provides exclusive elements that virtual options can’t compete with,” said Becky Lux, ATA’s senior manager of Trade Show. “Folks are on the Show floor and happy to be together again to celebrate the industry. We have quality buyers on the floor who are here to focus on business. We hope that hosting this in-person event provides a bit of normalcy the industry’s been looking for.”
Thorogood Shoes hopes to showcase their available product. Photo Credit: ATA
Bianca Boettcher, marketing manager for Thorogood Shoes, said the Show is a great platform to familiarize retailers with their company and products, especially because they have inventory and can fill and complete orders in a timely fashion.
“Our business is still trying to gain momentum in the outdoor industry,” she said. “Thorogood hasn’t had the supply chain issues that people have seen in the past 12 to 18 months. We have inventory in stock, so a lot of dealers that are coming to the Show are coming to see our product and stock their shelves. We need to be out here and be visible so we can deliver. Our salespeople will be busy after the Show following up on the leads we’ve made.”
Boettcher could tell people were happy to be out and about and at the Show again. She was excited to see and interact with retailers and hopes the Show will boost everyone’s business who could attend.
Don Borchardt, owner of Wicked Archery, LLC, was disappointed in the exhibitors who decided not to attend, sympathetic to the exhibitors who couldn’t attend last minute, but grateful for the exhibitors who showed up to help retailers and represent the industry. He said that mentality was extremely important given the virtual Show last year.
“This year’s Show demonstrated why it’s important to see and touch products,” he said. “Last year it was hard. It was a weird year in the industry. We stuck with what we knew because it was hard to pick and order products from a catalogue without physically evaluating them. We usually bring in one or two new products or lines each year, but last year we didn’t take risks. This year, we have a handful of things we looked at and plan to add.”
Borchardt said it was easy to talk to exhibitors on Buyer Day because there were less people, so he accomplished his primary goal of doing business and prepping his archery shop for the year ahead. Although, he does have reservations about the next 12 months.
“It’s a decision-making year,” he said. Borchardt is wondering if he can trust vendors to deliver product, if he can trust vendors to show up to next year’s Trade Show, and if he can trust the numbers his business had last year, which was 25% above his 2019 year. He’s anxious about this year, but hopeful things will line up and happen, so decisions are easy to make.
Many industry members, including representatives from the media, nonprofit companies, and state wildlife agencies, also attend the Show to get noticed, further their mission, and establish connections within the industry.
International Hunter Education Association team members came to the Show this year to see industry members and partners, meet the new CEO, check out new products, show their support for Bowhunters United, and represent and gather information for their 45,000-plus volunteer hunter education instructors. Alex Baer, IHEA-USA executive director, said the Show is a gathering place that saves their company a lot of money since everyone from the industry is in one place.
“As IHEA-USA, we have that connection between the volunteers, state wildlife agencies, hunter education teams and private industry. We play a middle role there. We share information from the industry and broker deals on behalf of our volunteers with ATA-member companies to help us keep our hunter education instructors engaged and retained. Volunteer management is tricky, so by being here we can make sure we’re involved and can give back to our volunteers.”
In the coming year, IHEA-USA plans to launch the LearnHunting.org platform, which is a mentor match and continued education platform for its instructors. Volunteers can sign up to mentor graduates from hunter education classes. The program provides a much more intimate and intricate learning experience for newcomers. If exhibitors are interested in joining the program, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, all volunteer educators and state hunter education staff who are IHEA-USA members get access to IHEA’s Hunter Education Instructor Discount Program. Baer is on the Show floor establishing partnerships with manufacturers to help get products into the hands of the program participants.
Cam Ingram, director for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, came to the Show to meet with all the retailers and manufacturers from North Carolina. His goal is to plug ATA members into the state agency’s programs and initiatives. He also hopes to partner with industry folks to improve the state’s R3 efforts to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.
“We’re taking this opportunity to meet industry leaders big and small to build relationships so we can provide the best customer service for our North Carolina constituents,” he said. “We saw a great increase I the number of participants during the 2020 spring turkey season, which was a gift for us in conservation. That spike continued with a slight drop in 2021, but we’re still seeing an increase overall. We hope the connections and partnerships we make at the Show will help us learn how to keep archers, bowhunters and recreationists involved in the outdoors.”
The NCWRC finished a range in 2020 called the Lentz Center to provide a place for people to shoot and practice. The state is also amping up its outdoor programs and opportunities for residents. In the coming year, it will complete a “Pathway to Relevancy” program that will ensure the state is providing customer-service-based programs and opportunities that meet the needs of new and current North Carolinians.
The Show always helps attendees and exhibitors make connections, evaluate and assess their business plans, and get a pulse on the industry. Everyone agrees they will walk away from #ATA2022 with new ideas, fresh perspectives and things to consider for the new year.