ATA Show is Business First

By Patrick DurkinJanuary 13, 2011

LAST UPDATED: May 8th, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS – While attending the 2011 ATA Trade Show last week (Jan. 6-8) at the Indianapolis Convention Center, I couldn’t help but think it should have been my 20th straight archery/bowhunting Trade Show.

Trouble is, I broke that streak in 1999 after returning from a late-season bowhunt with an intestinal parasite. Believe me, I tried my best to attend, but I never made it out of the house. I finally unpacked my suitcase after spending my travel day and the Show’s first day confined to my house. Since then, I’ve been more careful what I eat while away from home.

No matter how many times I’ve attended the ATA Trade Show, I continue to be amazed by its size, the number of manufacturers, the diversity of product lines, and the products’ amazing innovations. Every time I think these guys can’t possibly make a faster bow; a straighter, more durable arrow; or a truer-flying broadhead, I turn the corner at the ATA Trade Show and run into an engineer who just proved me wrong. It only took me about 10 Shows to concede they’ll never accept the status quo; not if they want to stay in business.

Eve so, it’s not always easy finding those innovations on your own while cruising the Show floor, because its size is overwhelming. This year’s ATA Trade Show featured 513 manufacturers and other exhibitors, who combined to rent 167,650 square feet of booth space, including a record 55 shooting lanes along the Show floor’s perimeters. Add in the aisles, and the Show covers about 300,000 square feet of floor space.

Try to picture that: If the ATA Show were laid out in one giant square, each side would measure 1.5 football fields long. Just so we’re clear, that means the length of a football field, including its end zones, plus half of another field from the back of an end zone to slightly past the 50-yard line.

Now, divide that space into 513 squares and rectangles of various sizes, and you realize you’ll never see everything firsthand at the Show. For kicks, I calculated how much time I could spend in each of the 513 booths if I were to visit every exhibitor during the Show’s three nine-hour days. The answer: about three minutes and 9 seconds.

And that’s just from the perspective of a writer gathering information on the latest bows and bowhunting gear at the Show. I don’t have to worry about choosing the best mix of inventory for my shop, predicting what customers will buy, or making sure deals I negotiate keep me in business another year.

In other words, archery/bowhunting retailers might enjoy attending the Show and socializing a bit with old friends, but they must cover miles of carpeted cement and make lots of important decisions during those three days. Talk about pressure!

Sure, they might take time to snag an autograph from a TV show personality, and they might gawk at someone hanging 30 feet above the Show floor to demonstrate a tree-stand safety harness. Time is money, though, and the mood you see on the Show Floor is far different from what you’ll usually see at hunting shows and fishing shows open to the general public.

And that’s why archery-shop owners who sneak a friend or two into the Show have to be careful. The stakes at the ATA Trade Show are high. When exhibitors discover they’ve wasted precious time explaining a product to someone who shouldn’t be there, and watched a legitimate shop owner walk away rather than wait, they might not let the “show crasher” slide. Every year people are escorted off the Show floor for such deceptions.

Believe me, I keep all that in mind when visiting manufacturers’ booths at the ATA Show. When I spot individuals I need to interview, I back off and circle the block if they’re talking with retailers or shop owners. This show is often the manufacturers’ only chance each year to meet their paying customers — archery dealers — and I better not get in their way.

That’s just smart business, and it’s nothing personal.

Did you attend the show? What were your thoughts?

Patrick Durkin
President at Wisconsin Outdoor Communicators Association
Patrick Durkin is a lifelong bowhunter and full-time freelance outdoor writer/editor who lives in Waupaca, Wisconsin. He has covered hunting, fishing and outdoor issues since 1983. His work appears regularly in national hunting publications, and his weekly outdoors column has appeared regularly in over 20 Wisconsin newspapers since 1984.
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