Countdown To SHOT Show

Jan 18, 2024

We’re in the thick of it. It being the hectic, stress-filled, sleep depriving ramp-up to SHOT Show. This is quite literally the busiest time of the year for staff at the companies attending SHOT.

And, for the record, it’s ‘SHOT Show’ and not ‘Shot Show.’ If you’re sending out a press release stating your company will be exhibiting at ‘Shot Show’ should you even be allowed to exhibit? Asking for a friend.

While companies are running their employees ragged in the final days before SHOT, what’s also taking place right now is the annual discussion about the value of SHOT…from those who know very little about trade shows but nonetheless feel they are experts on the matter.

It’s always fun to read blog posts and social media dissertations on why SHOT Show is, well, to put it politely, a crappy show. It’s an easy target, especially for those who have never put on a trade show, and couldn’t put one on if you paid them to. But yet they have all the reasons in the world that SHOT Show – now the eighth largest trade show in the country – is doing it wrong.

Again, the eighth largest trade show in the country. So, maybe put just a tad bit of respect on its name and capitalize it accordingly.

While there are aspects of SHOT that I find useless, they are useless to me and not the rest of the attendees. And despite some things about the show not being for me, I wouldn’t miss it. And here’s why….

SHOT Show is the single largest gathering of industry personnel (and us industry media types). Nearly everybody attends. Even those companies not exhibiting will have people in attendance walking the show floor.

Courtesy of HeadHunters NW

It is quite simply the biggest networking event for this business. And, it is maybe the best low-key jobs fair. A number of companies will be looking to fill positions, or poach key players from other companies. These opportunities won’t be widely advertised, or announced at all, but people will be having lots of meetings with future employers.

I know, because last year at SHOT is when I went from being a marketing director of an exhibiting company to becoming the managing editor for the Outdoor Wire Digital Network.

Going into SHOT Show understanding the value of this networking opportunity is important. And just in time for you job seekers, the industry recruiting firm HeadHunters NW is out with their 2024 Shooting Sports Industry Salary Survey.

This is the third year they have conducted the survey, and while its primary audience might be those doing the hiring, it provides important insights to the people looking to be hired. And the good news is that companies are looking to expand in 2024.

Courtesy of HeadHunters NW

According to the HeadHunters NW survey, employers are intending to recruit or expand their workforce this year. These companies are planning to staff hourly positions all the way up to the top levels.

This is likely due to what HeadHunters NW sees as “an optimistic outlook” where companies “anticipate an increase in sales for the coming year.”

This comes after a year where about 50% of companies participating in the survey reported a significant decrease of -10% of more in sales with 40% reporting the same kind of decrease in revenue. Ouch.

With the good news of potential new job opportunities in 2024 comes the bad news for job seekers. Companies responding to the Salary Survey noted that an overwhelming 88% of employees work on-site. And I think we can all assume that won’t change anytime soon.

Courtesy of HeadHunters NW

In last year’s Shooting Industry Employee Satisfaction Survey for 2023, HeadHunters NW reported that only 14% of employees preferred to work in-person over working remotely. So, for those die-hard fans of the work-from-home experience of the pandemic, as one industry insider put it, ‘buckle up buttercup.’

The survey also provides a breakdown of salaries by position, along with whether or not that position is common or uncommon at the surveyed companies.

For instance, among the seven engineering positions listed, the ranges for each varied with the lowest starting salary being $60,000 going up to $225,000. Of the seven positions, four of the engineering types were uncommon, meaning that less than 1/3 of the companies responding offer that specific engineering role.

Other position areas that the survey provides salary ranges for are those in operations, sales, accounting and finance, and human resources. The reported salary ranges for hourly employees is particularly interesting, but a deeper dive into the regionality, company size, and position type might provide a better explanation for the ranges.

Staying competitive in the effort to recruit top talent means offering more than just a good salary. The survey found that 100% of the companies responding offered employees medical, dental and vision coverage. And 89% offered employee retirement contributions, averaging 3.5% towards an employee investment plan.

One area where companies fall short, compared to those in other industries, is in their investment toward employee career development. Building employee talent from within can have a significant impact on morale, employee retention and ultimately the bottom line. Those companies offering such a program may find an advantage when it comes to recruiting the next generation of industry leaders.

Courtesy of HeadHunters NW

As you walk the floor at SHOT, looking for your company’s next top performer, or as that top performer seeking greener pastures, understanding the industry’s employment playing field might come in handy. Results from this survey will be provided at SHOT Show to companies that participated, and will be made available to companies that commit to participating in 2025.

This March access to the full survey results will be made available on the HeadHunters NW website for a nominal fee – it is proprietary information, after all.

Speaking of walking the SHOT Show floor, the Oudoor Wire Digital Network will be well represented. Myself, Jim Shepherd and Alex Miceli will be there for OWDN, while Dan Zimmerman and Jeremy Siwek will be covering the show for our newest service, Shooting News Weekly, as well as contributing to some of our SHOT Show Special Edition features.

We are looking forward to catching up next week with our many friends, and seeing the latest in new products. Hopefully, somewhere down those near endless aisles we’ll stumble upon a few hidden gems, finding today’s small garage-based company that becomes tomorrow’s industry leader with a massive booth on the main show floor.

— Paul Erhardt, Managing Editor, the Outdoor Wire Digital Network