While they’ve rolled up the carpet at SHOT, the outdoor industry’s mega trade show, my feet won’t soon forget the 715,000 square feet of exhibitor space. There, with 48,907 other attendees, I dashed from booth to booth, frantically trying to visit as many as possible of the 1,800 exhibitors. While I fell wildly short of seeing it all, my show floor travels took me to some pretty interesting places.
One thing that really jumped out was the growth in women’s outdoor apparel. For years, serious female hunters and shooters have clamored for apparel that fit, looked good and performed. And for years, retailers told us we don’t make cash registers ring. However, one women’s apparel vendor I talked to pointed out that in the past women weren’t offered what they really wanted. Often choices were limited to a token camo shirt and pair of pants cut down from men’s sizes. Or if there was something in a store or catalog, you’d have to be the guy on the Mentalist to find it. What I saw this year, more than ever before thanks to this industry’s female entrepreneurs, were entire booths full women’s shooting apparel, cold weather clothes, upland pants and vests, base layers and more. All the pieces were extremely well thought out with everything from waterproof zippers, thumb holes to keep sleeves from riding up and pockets exactly where you want them. And I practically drooled over the look and fit. Gone are the days when cold weather clothes made you look like the Michelin Man. Today we have sleek comfort thanks to performance fabrics and styling. What I didn’t see a ton of, and I’ll gladly stand corrected because I’ve already admitted I didn’t visit every booth, were women’s sized turkey vests, duds for duck hunting and boots.
Another topic on women’s lips is the proliferation of pink. I saw pink guns, pink apparel and pink backpacks. One exhibitor I talked to swore that it “flew off the shelf.” However, many of the women I talked to were skeptical of this hue’s place in the hunting and shooting world. One well known female hunter said when the pink trend first started on behalf of breast cancer she could see the relevance. However, as a marketing ploy, she found it condescending. I’m already looking forward to SHOT 2010 to see what shakes out.
It also was evident at SHOT that women have more of a voice than ever before. The Women’s Outdoor Communicators, a committee of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, met at the show and initiated a mentoring program. A new organization, the Women’s Outdoor Media Association, also launched there with the goal of offering networking and mentoring opportunities. The real challenge for both of these efforts will be reaching outside of the core group of women who are already in the know.
With the hunting and shooting ranks starving for new participants, all this comes as good news. Whether or not this innovation really moves product remains to be seen. Stay tuned because 2009 is shaping up to be a wild ride.