It’s been quite a year thus far in 2020, but at NSSF, our planning for the 2021 SHOT Show is in full swing. We’ve received tremendous support from our industry members and show partners throughout our planning, and we’re looking forward to bringing the industry our best SHOT Show yet—Fully Loaded and Fully Expanded to the new, awe-inspiring Caesars Forum right next door to the Sands Expo.
Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. was founded by William B. Ruger and Alexander McCormick Sturm in 1949, in a small rented machine shop in Southport, Connecticut. Just prior to their partnership, Ruger had successfully duplicated two Japanese Nambu pistols in his garage, working from a captured Nambu he’d acquired from a returning Marine at the close of World War II. The prototype, a .22 automatic, impressed Sturm, who provided the company’s initial venture capital, and the two launched the company on the back of a model that would be named the Standard. That handgun would go on to be the forbearer of the most accepted and successful .22 semi-automatic pistols ever produced. Today, Ruger produces a full line of rifles, pistols and revolvers.
Rob Werkmeister has been part of the Ruger team since 2007, first as a member of the company’s advertising agency of record, then later as part of Ruger’s internal team. He attended his first SHOT Show in 2008. In 2013, he became Ruger’s Director of Marketing and has been Ruger’s Vice President of Marketing since 2017. Here’s what he had to say about heading to Las Vegas next January.
Kevin Tate: Tell me about the growth and expansion you've seen the show experience.
Rob Werkmeister: My first year, in 2008, it was so overwhelming and impressive. I had spent my earlier professional years working for Xerox and had been to many trade shows, but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer size of SHOT. I remember walking around in awe of all the aisles of shooting, hunting and outdoor sporting companies.
Over the past 13 years, I have seen more halls open, more areas expand, the outdoor ranges added, and, of course, now the much-anticipated expansion into the Caesars Forum. I am most excited about that.
KT: How has SHOT Show been helpful in growing Ruger's business?
RW: It is the best, single-location opportunity for us meet with our distributor customers, our retail customers and the industry media. We are able to bring our various internal teams and, over the course of the four days, can really accomplish a lot.
The format of the show allows us to meet with retailers, show them our products and then have them go visit with their distributor right there on the show floor, which is especially key for us because we sell purely through two-step distribution. Lots of business is able to happen for us there.
KT: Tell me about your plans for the 2021 SHOT Show.
RW: Well, wow, 2021 will be significantly different for us. This will be one of the greatest changes I have been a part of over the past 14 years. We are set to move to the brand-new Caesars Forum and will do so with a completely new booth property. The new booth will give us a fresh brand look, will allow for more meeting room space, feature an international display area and also include a media filming section. Additionally, we’ll be using this refresh to address concerns that may still be out there from the pandemic, accommodating more video displays, hand sanitization areas, protective screens and appropriate space at displays and in meeting rooms. We are extremely excited!
KT: What product launches or highlights do you have in mind?
RW: Well, being publicly traded and generally conservative with forward-looking statements, I can’t share exactly what will be coming in January 2021. But, if you look at our history, we usually launch about 30 to 50 new models in late December, knowing that the first time many of our customers will be able to see them is at the SHOT Show.
What I can tell you is, we never disappoint when it comes to new products and innovation and, even in these current, difficult times, our great engineering, product development and sales teams continue to focus on what’s next. We will certainly have some great new products.
KT: What do you look forward to most for the upcoming show?
RW: Hopefully getting back to some normalcy! Like everyone else, we all miss getting to visit with our industry friends. SHOT is a tremendous opportunity for us to have productive meetings, share our new product information, let customers see and touch new products and, just as important, for us to laugh and enjoy time with our friends.
KT: What’s your favorite SHOT Show-related memory?
RW: That first SHOT Show, I was pretty nervous about being responsible for all of the graphics, the booth layout and the set-up, our current General Council-Vice President, Kevin Reid, was at the time the acting Director of Marketing and was the person who hired us as Ruger’s agency of record. He asked only one thing prior to the show: “Rob, can you and your team do all that we need done? Shoot me straight and don’t let me down.” I said “of course,” but always remembered his words.
Fast forward to that first show. As we were setting up at the show, a forklift turned the corner of our booth too sharply and completely took down an entire corner of our display, knocking over a dozen rifles and destroying the main structure. I thought “Oh, man, I let Kevin down! This is bad!” But it wasn’t. All the folks involved with the show and at NSSF are first class and came to help get everything fixed. It was a last-minute curveball, but it all looked great when the doors opened.
It’s my favorite memory because it taught me a lot. No matter how much you plan, something could pop up, but trouble-shooting at the show is easy because there are lots of great people between NSSF, Freeman, our exhibit house FDI and even other industry exhibitors there who will help you.