By Russ Thurman
The 2016 business year has been wild. For vast segments of the industry, sales for this year can be rated between record setting and fabulous. Firearm and ammunition sales have reached levels nearly matching those of 2013 — the gold standard year for sales.
While veteran gun owners are making plenty of purchases, a substantial number of firearms buyers are new. This year we’ve seen growth, most notably in younger gun owners. After far too many years of what has been described as “pale, male and stale,” the industry’s demographic is expanding. Younger, urban-based gun owners are joining our ranks. Reports indicate the largest growth segment in new firearm owners is women, another major plus. In addition, the number of Hispanics and Asians purchasing firearms is also up. All these are a major boost to the market, and provide a solid, healthy foundation for future sales.
Driving many firearm sales this year has been an increase in the fear factor. Terrorist attacks, mass shootings, riots, increased crime and general uncertainty have motivated many buyers. The threat of additional gun restrictions — many of them at the state level — also created a boost in sales.
For the first seven months of 2015, the number of firearm background checks was only 3 percent lower than the same months in record-setting 2013. More telling is the comparison over 2015, the second-highest year for background checks. During January through July 2016, firearm background checks were up 18 percent over the same period in 2015.
In June of this year, the number of NICS background checks hit 1,140,088 (NSSF-adjusted), a 28.6 percent increase over July 2015. In July, there was a 27.9 percent increase of July 2015 in background checks, with 1,210,731 (NSSF-adjusted) conducted. These were the highest numbers of background checks during June and July in the history of the NICS system.
That’s impressive. What will the final numbers be at the end of this month? Safe projection: They will exceed 2015 and, likely, 2013.
Attacks Will Continue
With the election of Donald Trump as president, the industry avoids the Hillary Clinton anti-gun onslaught. And it wouldn’t have been pretty. Hillary launched her assault on the industry at the beginning of her campaign and never relented.
Industry veterans who recall the tough days of the 1990s, with its numerous anti-gun/industry attacks, now have a new “toughest” benchmark for future fights to protect and preserve the industry.
In addition to avoiding a major battle to once-again protect the Second Amendment, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act remains in place, and is unlikely to be challenged, at least for the next few years.
However the battles are far from over. There continues to be increased attacks from state and local governments. Four states had gun measures on their ballots during the national elections: California, Maine, Nevada and Washington — each measure passed, except for in Maine. We can expect similar attacks on guns and the industry to increase next year.
And these state-level attacks are having an impact. This was another year when major companies moved out of states unfriendly to firearms and the industry. Many of them have relocated to the south, the new Gun Valley. These migrations will continue in 2017.
Embrace New Challenges
Yes, this has been a wild year for business. Challenging, but we’re tougher for it, which prepares us well for 2017 and a new business year. We’re also smarter. We better understand the marketplace, which will continue to change next year. Not every new gun owner thinks like “us,” those who have long-formed the foundation of the industry.
That’s okay. Good, really. Challenges lead to innovation, not only in product development, but also in distribution, marketing, sales and customer service. Social media and online sales will continue to shape much of what we do in expanding our business. How we handle all this will determine our success for 2017 and beyond.
New challenges: Something to look forward to in 2017.
Welcome To The New Business Year
This issue of Shooting Industry magazine is the first of two mega issues we devote to the New Business Year. Both the December 2016 and January 2017 editions are packed with business-building tips, forecasts for next year, hundreds of new products and updates on SHOT Show 2017.
If you’re attending the SHOT Show, stop by our FMG Publications booth (16327). We’d like to shake your hand and learn from you what it will take to be successful in the New Business Year. We’ll also be giving away thousands of extra copies of the December and January issues of Shooting Industry and our SHOT Show floor map, along with copies of our sister publications, American Handgunner and GUNS Magazine.