Reflecting on 30 years given to the shooting sports: The passion for shooting and hunting drives this unique industry! (Special to Shooting Industry).

Author:Oeltjen, Ray

Editor's note: Ray Oeltjen will retire on Feb. 5, 2002. A fierce defender of shooting and hunting, this industry statesman has been a part of the industry for more than three decades. From a gun shop in Nebraska to the upper management of Leupold, Oeltjen has embraced the industry with a passion. He calls on others to do the same.

The shooting sports market has been my occupation and passion for over 30 years. It has been challenging, frustrating, rewarding, frightening, and tremendously fulfilling.

But never boring.

It has been said that all industries are more or less the same, that they simply have different products. The same has been said about sales and marketing. Neither is true. While the basics may share similarities, the shooting sports market stands alone in its uniqueness. And though I'm not sure why, I continue to speculate on the causes.

Consumers in this market are driven by a passion for a sport and its products that surpasses the level of passion for other recreational activities. And though other sports certainly have their strong devotees, very few have been attacked by large segments of society for their beliefs, the legal pursuit of their sport, and their possessions.

Few other sport participants are compelled to defend their recreational activities both alongside and amongst friends, neighbors and family. Few feel the need to contact their con gressmen pleading for, or demanding the right to, conduct their legal sporting activities unfettered by ridiculous or onerous regulations promoted by those who don't understand or choose not to be swayed by common sense or facts.

This societal and legislative pressure transcends the entire distribution channel, and often creates a siege mentality throughout the market.

In looking hack over the last three decades, many of us remember times of giddy euphoria when we won a particularly crucial election, or a very serious legal battle. We've also been through paralyzing times when morale sunk to new lows, and a sense of impending doom set over the industry.

We have seen consumers driven into a buying frenzy by legal and legislative threats. Unfortunately, the consumer is often shortchanged. The hunter and shooter, who just wants to buy a product and go shooting, is often left standing in their favorite retail store wondering where the products have gone.

Where's The Money

The one common thread that runs through all industry, including the shooting sports market, is the never-ending concern about profitability. Shooting sports executives in retail, wholesale and manufacturing often believe this industry is rare in its real or perceived lack of profitability.

These people should look around. Profitability, or a lack thereof, is a universal and widely accepted complaint in the enterprise known as capitalism. The real trick is how one deals with it. Management's attitude -- at every level -- is the key difference between success and failure in this or any industry. It is not the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure the profit of the wholesaler or the dealer. It is everyone's responsibility to run their businesses as efficiently and intelligently as possible in order to ensure their own individual business success.

My first venture into the shooting sports began when I worked in a large gun shop while attending college full-time. The shop's "old timers"...

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