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Neuse Sport Shop Working the Show - Shot Show

This retailer takes the industry-only trade show “live” to its customers.

Welcome to NSSF’s newest SHOT Show column, “Working the Show.” Designed to help retailers and range owners of all sizes realize the most from their time and money spent in Las Vegas every year at SHOT Show, “Working the Show” will share how various successful retailers across the country plan for SHOT Week and what they’re looking to accomplish while they’re at the show. After the show, we’ll continue the series and examine how these retailers, along with manufacturers and media members, are maintaining contacts, responding to trends, changing their marketing based on their purchases and other follow-up tactics. Of course, a critical part of every plan while visiting SHOT Show should be to stop by the NSSF booth and learn more about your benefits and meet the NSSF team. We look forward to your visit!

—John McNamara, NSSF Senior Director, Retailer Services

Neuse Sport Shop is a single-footprint store located along Highway 70 in eastern North Carolina. The massive 70,000 square-foot outlet is staffed by 65 employees and has well-stocked firearms, ammunition and hunting departments, a dedicated ladies shop and an eight-lane, 25-yard indoor handgun range. Because of its proximity to the coast and all the in- and offshore fishing opportunities that presents, Neuse stocks all major brands of salt and freshwater fishing gear and has a marine hardware department for boaters. The store is open seven days a week from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. except on Friday, when hours extend until 10:00 p.m.

Marketing Director Zach Godwin tells me the company has a definite plan when it comes to approaching SHOT Show, what they do there and how they communicate back to the store and to their customers. Staff attending the 2018 SHOT Show include Godwin, who is also Neuse’s archery buyer, and Craig Harper, the guns and ammunition buyer. Joining them will be a hunting buyer and an assistant hunting buyer, as well as an apparel buyer.

Neuse Sport Shop - SHOT ShowGodwin’s on-the-ground marketing plan calls for live-streaming after show hours to let customers know what the buying team is doing and why they’re at SHOT Show, but a lot of what he will do from a new-product standpoint is gather and store information for later social media use once they have those products in stock. In addition to photos and general product information, Godwin hopes to get video with company reps talking about their products to build customer excitement about them.

“We’re going to be using Facebook quite a bit,” says Godwin. “There will be some product, but we mainly want to show the vastness of the SHOT Show to our customers and get them excited about what we’re doing and why we’re there.”

As for keeping in touch with the home front, Godwin says they will be communicating with the company president and vice president on a daily basis about what they’re seeing and any deals they find. In addition, they plan to discuss new products and any new lines they would like to bring back to the store.

When it comes to buying, Harper tells me they’re looking for good deals, but being part of a buy group means that a lot of times the deals that Neuse would normally get as a group member aren’t displayed.

With the changes in gun, ammunition and accessory sales in 2017, Harper is counting on manufacturers having heavy stock levels and really wanting to turn some inventory.

“We’re thinking there will be some deals at SHOT Show,” he tells me, “so we’re looking at it from a couple of different angles this year.”

“A lot of the new products and things like that are kept under wraps until SHOT Show,” says Godwin, who says SHOT Show is often about the “reveal.”

“We’re going to use all of the resources made available to us by the folks at NSSF,” says Godwin of his preparation and on-the-ground tools.

When the vendor list and map comes out, for example, the team scans that list to see if there are vendors on it they’re unfamiliar with and then look up those potential new partners and see what they’re about.

“We’re going to see if they fit the categories we’re looking for and, if so, we’re going to make it a point to get by that booth while we’re there. We’re going to use the map app, and we’re going to be looking at where these vendors are beforehand and scheduling meetings with them, especially our key vendors. We’ll map that out and make sure we’re not having a lot of lag time from walking between booths.”

Harper agrees, saying a dealer without a plan “probably needs to stay home.” The show is so large that Neuse sends five buyers because it means five different sets of eyes looking at everything and hitting the show’s many different product categories.

“I think you need to go out there with a game plan and use everything that’s been given by NSSF—all the apps and maps to sales and knowledge of some products going into it. Just winging it is going to be a shot in the dark,” he adds.

With a plan in hand, booths mapped out and appointments scheduled, the group still makes time to simply walk the floor and discover new and unique products.

“We want to see as much as possible and make sure we’re not missing anything,” says Godwin.

One tactic on the show floor Godwin uses to find what’s grabbing people’s attention is what he calls the “seagull effect”—when he sees a crowd flocking around a booth, it means there’s a reason, and he knows he should go see what’s going on. He finds that it often leads to “what is popular with other companies like us” and that, he says, helps “make sure I’m not missing out on any of those big deals.”

About the Author
Warren Berg is a 25-year veteran of the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry. He has penned hundreds of articles under many names for such storied publications as American Rifleman and Field & Stream. He has produced award-winning television programs on personal-defense and has hunted extensively in North America, Europe and Africa.