Uncertain Times

Jul 30, 2020

A new national poll by the National Recreation and Park Association finds, not surprisingly, that more than half (54 percent) of adults polled told the NRPA they plan to vacation close to home this summer. A majority cite the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason, but the fact the outdoors provides the chance to social distance and enjoy recreation is likely another major reason.

We’re not going to belabor the obvious point that their primary activities walking/hiking/biking, swimming, picnicking, gardening, and fishing (unless you go tournament angler crazy) are all extremely affordable, especially when compared with other affinity activities and long-distance travel. But the opportunities afforded by the pandemic might actually give the best chance -ever- to connect with millennials. Sixty four percent of millennials surveyed said they’d be sticking closer to home for their recreating. Not surprisingly, the boomers are the least likely to pick a spot closer to home.

Working from the “mobile outdoor newsroom” we can safely move about the country and enjoy great views like this from our campground yesterday morning. If you have a facility like this near your home, you may discover staying closer to home doesn’t detract from the fun of vacation.

“With local parks and recreation, families and individuals don’t have to look far to find fun, safe and affordable summertime activities close to home, even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Kevin Roth, NRPA’s vice president of research, evaluation and technology. “Local park and recreation professionals and their agencies work hard to provide communities with year-round activity options that engage and inspire people of all ages, and right now is no exception. We encourage everyone to explore the innovative ways their local parks and recreation is addressing COVID-19, and how they can safely participate in the activities they enjoy during the pandemic.”

While outdoor recreation provides an affordable alternative to other more costly vacation options, plenty of outdoor industry types are worried about their planning for 2021. Especially when it comes to the normally predictable line item called “Trade Shows.”

With the Consumer Electronics Show announcing its cancellation this week, Las Vegas loses another major event. This one, however, was scheduled to happen the week prior to SHOT 2021. The question that cancellation announcement raises is obvious…what about SHOT?

With the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) announcing it was cancelling its actual event for 2020 and NASGW having cancelled their October 23-25, 2020 Expo on Monday, there’s really only one “major” industry event left on the calendar: SHOT Show 2021.

Slated for January 19-22, 2021, SHOT is unquestionably the largest trade event of the year. Additionally, it’s a major contributor to the overall funding of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the industry’s trade association. It’s also the largest single sales and marketing expense for many companies. And as hotel, restaurant and entertainment reservations approach their drop-dead cancellation dates, many corporate executives are beginning to wonder whether they need to make a go or no-go decision regardless of the NSSF’s ultimate decision.

At this point, everything we’re seeing/hearing indicates SHOT 2021 is still going forward as planned.

If there’s one company that has seen plenty of certainty in the last few years, it’s Remington. A few weeks ago, the industry was pretty much convinced that while the company was once again, facing hard times, it - once again- had a rescuer riding over the hill to save them. Now, it seems that deal’s been scotched, and it’s bankruptcy with nothing more to encourage a judge than some expressed interest from a couple of other firearms companies and one other interested party. Knowing I’m going to be accused of kicking a company’s management when it’s down, the management and board of directors refused to consider several survival options suggested well before the company got to this unfortunate position (again). As a result, it’s consumers and employees who suffer. Consumers who already own their products are concerned about service, parts and warranties.

Many employees are simply concerned because they’ve been notified at the end of September is the end of the line for their jobs -barring completion of yet another “fourth and long” play.

For the record, I’m not a corporate manager. Have never run a manufacturing company. Don’t begin to understand the intricacies involved in keeping all those various parts and pieces moving in harmony.

Unlike some, however, I don’t feel the need to prove what I lack in managerial skills by running a great brand into the ground (again). But it doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to see Remington needs serious help to survive.

Speaking of brands, Ruger’s financial results announced in the news section of today’s edition proves what we’ve suspected: the firearms side of the industry has once again seen that uncertainty compels people to take steps to protect themselves. For many, that self-protection includes purchasing a firearm. Ruger’s second quarter results showed a gigantic improvement over the same-period sales last year ($130.3 million this year compared with “only” $96.3 million Q2 2019). The results were so strong that the company declared a “special” $5.00 per share dividend, in addition to the forty-two cent per share dividend based on earnings.

According to CEO Chris Killoy, the results were driven by current events. “Consumer demand, which began to surge in the latter stages on the first quarter, continued to intensify in the second quarter,” Killoy said, “…increased demand appears to be driven, in part, by concerns about personal protection and home defense stemming from the continuing COVID-19 pandemic; protests, demonstrations, and civil unrest in many cities throughout the United States; and the call, by some, for the reduction in funding and authority of various law enforcement organizations.”

Later this morning, Ruger will hold its quarterly call with “interested parties” to discuss those Q2 results. It is probably safe to say there won’t be many tough questions.

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

—Jim Shepherd