After going virtual like so many other conventions in 2021, the nation’s largest annual shooting, hunting and firearms trade show made its return to Las Vegas this week — and with a bigger footprint to boot.
For the 23rd time, the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show — or SHOT Show for short — welcomed thousands of industry professionals to Las Vegas as the show opened its doors Tuesday at The Venetian Expo and Caesars Forum.
The four-day show gives manufacturers and wholesalers the opportunity to show off the latest in firearms, ammunition and accessories, such as scopes, holsters and more, while laying the groundwork to ink multimillion-dollar deals with retailers and law enforcement agencies.
‘Real appetite to get back’
Getting back to an in-person show was especially important for the firearms industry because of the tactile nature of the products, where the slightest differences in weight and balance are noticeable, said Joe Bartozzi, president and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which sponsors the show.
“I think there was a real appetite to get back to some sense of human interaction. I don’t think there’s any substitute for face-to-face interaction,” he said.
SHOT Show decided to expand the footprint of this year’s show to 800,000 square feet by adding additional venue space at Caesars Forum. Typical SHOT Shows have a waitlist of companies wanting to exhibit, and the expanded room this year allowed organizers to have enough space for roughly 2,400 exhibitors, according to Bartozzi.
The 43,000 expected to attend this year’s show is a drop from its typical pre-pandemic numbers, which typically hovered around 60,000. But even with that drop in attendance, which isn’t as significant as the 75 percent drop seen by CES this month, there was still plenty of buzz for the event’s opening day, Bartozzi said.
“When you’re on the show floor, it’s just like any other SHOT Show,” Bartozzi said.
SHOT Show isn’t requiring vaccines for attendees, but masks are required at the convention, as they are throughout Clark County under the current COVID regulations. The convention has signage indicating the mask mandate, and health and safety ambassadors roaming around to enforce it “in as polite a way as possible,” Bartozzi said.
“We don’t want to have any issue with compliance. We want to be in compliance with the governor’s mandate,” he added.
‘Going to take some time’
SHOT Show’s return marks another signal of life returning to some sense of normalcy for the convention industry that helps buoy midweek tourism traffic in Southern Nevada. Attendees at this year’s event are expected to spend approximately $88 million on food, drinks, hotels and other nongaming purchases, according to the show’s sponsor.
“It just speaks to the long-term recovery and Vegas’ ability to figure out a way to get back. This is one step on our long road back to recovery,” said Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Global Market Advisors.
SHOT Show and the similarly large World of Concrete convention at the Las Vegas Convention Center, which also started Tuesday, kick off a busy stretch on Southern Nevada’s convention calendar leading into February.
Las Vegas Market, which historically attracts about 50,000 domestic and international buyers to the home furnishings and decor show, is slated for next week. And the MAGIC fashion trade show returns to the Las Vegas Convention Center on Feb. 14.
“Las Vegas, from a meetings and conventions standpoint, has recovered dramatically better than most. Shows like these aren’t really happening on any kind of regular basis anywhere else in the United States right now. It’s really a great sign for the recovery here that these shows are coming,” Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO Steve Hill said.
“They’re coming at 60 or 70 percent attendance, but if you look at what’s happening elsewhere, it’s not 60 or 70 percent,” Hill added. “So Las Vegas is really leading the way in the return of meetings and conventions, but it is not going to be just a flip of the switch and everything is back to normal. It’s going to take some time.”
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Dr. Miriam Adelson, the majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates The Venetian Expo.