The firearm industry's new business year is being defined by the sluggish economy, even before calendars are switched to 2011. No surprise. The economy is always a major factor in business. Now, however, it's the card that trumps all others.
Nationally, forecasting experts are not offering much encouragement that the U.S. economy will rebound to any notable level in 2011. Consumer confidence is projected to remain lukewarm, especially during the first half of the year.
In mid-October, the National Association of Business Economists reduced its projected U.S. growth in 2011 from 3.2 percent to 2.6 percent, citing the unemployment rate, U.S. debt and a decline in the nation's wealth, which impacts spending and inventing.
In early November, however, stocks soared on Wall Street, an encouraging lift following the elections. Also in November, the Labor Department reported unemployment claims had dropped to their lowest level since September 2008. There also were signs that the 2010 holiday buying season might be better than the previous, rather dismal, projections.
This bad-news, good-news rollercoaster makes it "perfectly" clear that there is a lot of caution, at best, in the national marketplace. How does this all affect the firearms industry?
The industry isn't exhibiting any panic, nor is anyone proclaiming that 2011 will be "our best year ever." Industry leaders and experts are taking a measured, realistic approach to the new business year.
Industry Will Return To 'Normal" In 2011
"I think 2011 will be what we consider 'normal,'" said Steve Hornady, president of Hornady Manufacturing. "The last two years have not been normal, but because people have very short memories, and they have been very busy, going gangbusters, they get the perception that was the new normal. That's just unrealistic."
The industry, Hornady points out, should put the past two years in perspective.
"We have been in a bubble, and if we deny that, we're foolish. It was a ridiculous level, and a reaction to the politics and those things that were going to happen that ultimately didn't. Now, we're starting to settle down to what is normal," Hornady said.
Hornady says he is approaching 2011 the way the company does every year, with the introduction of new products, including additions to the Superformance line.
"We are approaching 2011 with the objective of growing our products and presenting new, and hopefully interesting, things that shooters want to try and get interested in," Hornady said.
The slow economy can have a positive impact on some segments of the industry, according to Hornady.
"Historically, the reloading industry has always been counter cyclical to the economy. When the economy weakens, the sales of white goods--refrigerators and similar products--go down, and sales of reloading go up. Right now, more people have time on their hands. It's unfortunate, but people...