Will There be a SHOT Show 2021?

It is still on the schedule for Jan. 19 to 22 in Las Vegas, NV, but will there be a SHOT Show 2021? The trade show is the biggest for the firearm industry and companies unveil their latest and greatest outdoor and gun products at the showcase. More importantly, it’s a time when they can meet face-to-face with retailers and distributors to write orders.

Some 50,000 people attend every year, from dozens of nations, representing every major manufacturer on the globe. It’s an international menagerie in the tight confines of the Sands Expo Center and an ideal petri dish. The crowd already caught routine communicable illnesses there—long before the pandemic— with such regularity that the phrase “SHOT Show crud” is common parlance.

Already Canceled

Shows are already being rescheduled, canceled or turning virtual for 2021. Among the events reorganized as virtual is the Archery Trade Association (ATA) annual convention, which was scheduled a couple weeks before SHOT in Indianapolis, IN. It averages less than 10,000 less carriers, oops, attendees.

The 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, the global leader every year for unveiling the latest advances in the gizmo world, is now virtual. It would have taken place in Las Vegas, a week before the SHOT Show.   

This month the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers’ biggest annual event would have taken place in Texas. The 2020 Expo is not taking place.

Dallas Safari Club moved its date back to February and so did Houston Safari Club.  Although their attendance is much smaller, the moves are a logistical and expensive nightmare for a few companies. Some display at one show, and quickly move their wares to another. There’s no denying the SHOT Show has the highest priority, but the more things shift around, the less return on their investment.

Government Intervention

Ultimately it could be the governor of Nevada who determines if there will be a SHOT Show 2021 in Las Vegas. It would be an unfamiliar affair if it took place under guidelines as they stand today. A conference, convention, trade show, professional seminar or similar gathering activity for more than 250 individuals, but no more than 1,000 individuals if they’re separated into four groups.

The document was issued Sept. 29, which leaves a lot of time for things to change, for better or worse. With winter’s flu season approaching, smart wagers are going on the latter.

Industry Cost

Many manufacturers and companies have already booked flights and hotel rooms. Staying a week in Vegas is not cheap. Add meals and transportation to that total.

The expense can erode an entire year’s budget for small and blossoming businesses. Losing the opportunity to make a personal connection with manufacturers, writers or vloggers adds to that debit column. And the firearm industry is one of the few where entrepreneurs stand a fighting chance of survival.  

Insurance Catch 22s

Will there be a SHOT Show 2021 or will fiscal exposure be the final nail in its coffin? Are companies that send personnel responsible if a member of their staff catches Covid-19? Legal minds and the court system will undoubtedly sort that out. In the meantime, there’s another financial angle.  

The National Shooting Sport Foundation (NSSF), which holds the SHOT Show every year, likely has an insurance policy that covers cancellation or catastrophic loss of funds from the event. Odds are good the language includes natural disasters and other unpleasantries, including pandemic.

Rather than taking a dangerous and unqualified dive into litigious matters, I’ll provide a quote from PillsburyLaw.com. It explains, “An ‘all-cause’ event cancellation policy could, depending on the policy wording, provide coverage for event cancellations due to an outbreak of infectious or communicable diseases such as the coronavirus. As with most insurance coverage issues, whether a particular loss is covered by a particular insurance policy depends almost entirely on the policy language along with the specific circumstances of the loss.”

Depending on the underwriter, the language could prescribe when NSSF can announce the delay of the SHOT Show or its virtual launch. It could also preclude contagions completely, require certain “good faith” efforts or even demand complete and utter secrecy as things unfold.

Policies vary and for something as enormous as this event are likely long and complex. The team at NSSF is one of the best in the industry. I’ve known many of them for years and they genuinely care about every company and attendee at SHOT. After a banner sales year like 2020, they also want SHOT to be a face-to-face celebration, not a virtual one.

Will There be a SHOT Show 2021?

First and foremost, it is still scheduled as of Oct. 15, regardless of speculation. That may change, but there’s no denying it will not be the same as in years past. In fact, it may never be.

If it takes place in Vegas, the aisles will probably seem deserted. If you’ve been to SHOT before that’s welcome news. The Nevada governor’s office guidelines currently rely heavily on occupancy limits and social distancing and it’s doubtful—with flu season approaching—that will change.

Will return on investment drop to the point companies filter away from the event? That remains to be seen. There is, however, no doubt from here forward it will be unrecognizable to the first attendees—all the way back in 1979.

Updates: Safari Club International has cancelled its annual convention, scheduled a few weeks after SHOT in Vegas. And the NRA has cancelled its 2021 Great American Outdoor Show, annually held in Pennsylvania in February.