I’ve pondered privately if the decision to ban modern semi-automatic firearms from the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show was actually made prior to any key deadlines for vendors to pull out of their contracts with minimal loss of deposits. I don’t know the key contract dates since I’m not a vendor, but we do seem to have some level of confirmation that Reed Exhibition did not disclose their decision to vendors in a timely manner.
Reed’s statement on the ban – which appears to have been news to many of the exhibitors – appeared on January 15. That’s 8 days ago. Rumor started to leak publicly around January 11. That’s only 12 days ago. According to a member of the NSSF Board of Governors, they knew about the looming ban for nearly a month and tried to get Reed to change its position.
As a member of the Board of Governors of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, I have been working, in good faith, with Reed to find a compromise to allow the show to continue at the caliber to which my fellow exhibitors, manufacturers and the more than 200,000 attendees have come to expect. After nearly a month of discussions, which concluded yesterday, I believe a compromise will not be reached.
I also made a comment to Sebastian earlier today that something must have come to a head today or yesterday. To suddenly have Smith & Wesson and Ruger announce they won’t support the show, along with The Outdoor Channel suddenly no longer being listed as an event sponsor, and big groups like Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation dropping out, it was all quite a bit for one day. The statement from The Sportman’s Shop confirms that something big happened yesterday that was enough to send most of the industry fleeing without looking back.
Several people have said that the real impact to Reed’s bottom line may not be this year. Instead, it will likely be next year. Here’s what one vendor has to say about the economic bind he’s in with the show:
Provided Reed doesn’t change its stance, something Olien said the company told him it does not intend to do, Olien will decided by the weekend if it’s worth risking the trip.
One things is for sure.
Even if he comes this year, there will be no second trip for MN next winter.
He predicts a lot of vendors will be making a similar decision.
“I can’t afford to be associated with a show that’s so wishy-washy,” Olien said. “It’s been a wonderful show in the past, but they really flubbed it up. This show will always have a stigma as being that show.”
Reed has successfully made the Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show a dirty brand name. For exhibitors, they have created the perception that they are unreliable and will not treat you fairly. For attendees, they are still promising celebrities and vendors they cannot deliver. At this point, the local media hitting Reed’s target audience for attendance is reporting that attendees can expect about 15% of booths to be empty. There’s still another week and a half for more vendors to pull out, so that could increase – along with the number of headlines about how much smaller the show will be. If people pay their $14/head to get in and find out that many of the stalls are empty, they will not be pleased and will not return for future shows.
Reed may have told NSSF that all legal firearms will be allowed next year, but it’s pretty clear that all vendors will not return, nor will all attendees.