Editor’s Note: The following Op-Ed was written by Laurie Aronson, the chairwoman of the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers in response to our feature of June 20.
As the shooting sports industry hits our normal summer slowdown, it’s a great time to reflect on the interesting year we are experiencing. As our recent monthly report from NASGW’s SCOPE™ program shows, it’s not all doom and gloom. Yes, firearm sales are slower than previous years but as we dig a little deeper, we continue to see strong handgun sales as well as ammunition. In year three of the Trump administration, the politically fueled gun grab is in the rearview but there is another election year on the horizon. Will our industry see a similar scenario that we saw in 2016? We shall see.
In looking beyond the sales, what has made this year especially interesting are the challenges many businesses are facing as well as some of the major organizations in our industry. The most public of these organizations being the NRA and even our fellow wholesaler, United Sporting Companies. But to paint all of these challenges in broad brush strokes would do a disservice to many of the other businesses and organizations across the industry who have remained stable. It’s hard to evaluate an industry based on the struggles of a few. Over the past 25 years our industry has weathered many storms and we will do so with this one too.
In the shooting sports industry, wholesalers in many ways, provide a safe harbor for both manufacturers and retailers. Distributors, because they’re equipped, trained and prepared by decades of experience to do it, are able to assume significant risk by purchasing large amounts of product from manufacturer partners. We then hold those products in inventory until retailers are ready. Finally, as a collective group, NASGW distributors provide millions of dollars in credit to retailers every day, so we can keep the products moving and the channel healthy.
We are the steady bridge connecting the sales distribution channel and keeps product flowing smoothly. Most wholesale members of NASGW are built on solid foundations and have seen these challenges before. Most of us are family owned or management owned companies who’ve been around for a long, long time. We’ve learned to appreciate the strong years and prepare for the slower years. Unfortunately businesses sometimes face unforeseen challenges, and it’s never easy to watch. But despite some of the current negatives, there are plenty of positive things happening in the industry. Here are just a few examples:
- Many NASGW members have recently completed major warehouse expansions.
- Multiple distributors are now expanding into international markets such as Canada and Europe.
- Most NASGW members have already enhanced or are in the process of upgrading warehouse and logistics technology to make ordering easier, faster and considerably more streamlined.
- Same day or next day shipping of virtually any product you can think of is now an industry standard.
- A variety of distributors were privileged to take part in the Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting ceremony for Weatherby in Sheridan, Wyoming just a few weeks ago and Aguila also recently opened its new U.S. manufacturing facility in Texas.
Collectively, these good news stories are resulting in tremendous benefits for retailers and manufacturers alike. It also means the distribution channel continues to grow stronger and more efficient.
So as we head into the second half of the year, take the time to reflect on your own business. What lessons can be learned from 2019? Are the partnerships around you helping you thrive? Are you leveraging business intelligence resources, like data, to help you evaluate your position in the market? How can you insulate yourself from the turbulent political environment? What building blocks are you putting in place now to help you maximize sales in the future?
We encourage you to reach out to your wholesaler partners and if you aren’t working with any distribution partners, seek them out. These challenging times won’t last, but they were surely come again.
— Laurie Aronson