The continued decline of participants in the shooting sports industry has brought to focus the emergence of women participation in the sport. Women have been practically neglected in the absence of an organization which would recognize their abilities in the shooting business. However, the formation of the Women’s Shooting Sports Foundation has recently given more attention to their cause.
With the traditional market leveling off, the shooting sports industry is shifting its efforts to address the growing women’s market and other new participants.
Faced with a leveling off of its traditional participants, the shooting sports industry is finally taking notice of the growing female audience that has long been overlooked.
Millons of Women are Hunters and Shooting Sports Participants
Millions of women who are hunters and shooting sports participants had been left without a voice or any formal organization to lobby for their needs for many years. That is quickly changing, however, as the industry begins to realize the power of this growing market.
The women’s market has been both undiscovered and unexploited. Women have taken part in shooting and hunting for a long time, they just didn’t know other women were doing it. There was no one voice or organization to give them a collective identity. My job is to let them know that it’s all right for women to hunt and shoot, as well as to identify the scope and needs of the industry.
For manufacturers faced with flat or declining sales, women represent new sales opportunities, provided they address women’s needs. There is a definite need for merchandise geared to women. Everything from chest waders to hunting boots have traditionally been scaled-down for women from men’s sizes. And in guns, women are often pointed to youth/women models. Well, I don’t know any woman who has the same physique as a 13-year-old.
The WSSF gains much of its support from larger organizations such as the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which gave the WSSF 90 percent of its funding last year. “The increasing number of women participants is really the significant trend in the market,” says NSSF president Bob Delfay.
While NSSF reports some growth among overall participants in shooting sports, including the first increase in several years in the number of hunting license applications, much of this can be attributed to growing number of women participants, adds Delfay.hunting license applications, much of this can be attributed to growing number of women participants, adds Delfay.
“We’re not simply instituting marketing programs to increase the women’s market–we’re responding to the needs that they generate themselves,” says Delfay.
Women, who are both newcomers and veterans of shooting sports will have more opportunity to show off their skills in the upcoming year.
GUNNING FOR NEWCOMERS
Sales for the industry overall are on a recent upswing. In addition to making more women feel at ease participating in shooting sports, the NSSF will also kick off a program next year designed to make all newcomers feel more comfortable on the shooting range.
“Traditionally, shooting ranges have been initially standoffish with novices,” explains Delfay. The new NSSF program, which will be launched early next year, will feature General Norman Schwartzcorpf as its spokesman, and will include a series of booklets and public service announcements aimed at gun club managers and volunteers to make ranges more hospitable.
“This helps us complete the loop–if we get the interest level up among novices, we want them to feel welcome at ranges,” adds Delfay.
The NSSF will also continue to court youth participants through “bring-a-friend” programs, which encourage youngsters to take friends along to education courses. In addition, the NSSF remains a primary sponsor of the NRA/United States Shooting Team.
Any profession that promotes a sport looks at the potential for the youth market. But there is really more potential for shooting sports now because a large number of youths will be turning shooting age.
To ensure its future is on track, the NSSF board has also approved a major strategic analysis of the market, to determine how shooting sports will perform and grow in the next five to 10 years. The report will be undertaken by an outside analyst, with the results available early to late next fall.