By Robert Hausman
Despite recessionary fears, the strength of the Euro against other currencies, and the calls in certain countries for greater restrictions on firearms ownership, the 30th International Trade Fair for Hunting and Sporting Arms, Outdoor Articles and Accessories, held March 14-17, 2003 in the Exhibition Center in Nuremberg, was considered highly successful. Trade visitors numbered over 27,000, a gain of some 9% compared to 2002’s tally, while the number of exhibitors this year climbed to 966, compared to 956 in 2002. Looks of satisfaction were on the faces of both exhibitors and visitors at the end of the exhibition’s four days, which closed in a relaxed manner.
“IWA overcame the general economic skepticism,” exclaimed a delighted Gabriele Hannwacker, the exhibition’s project manager. “The fair put the wind back into the industry’s sails.”
“Whereas capital goods exhibitions all over the world are registering substantial drops in the number of visitors, IWA & Outdoor Classics has again succeeded in maintaining its function as a leading international exhibition,” adds Walter Hufnagel, a member of the Management Board of Nurnberg/Messe (the fair’s host site). “Business exhibitions with a clear profile, proven dialogue quality and above all a convincing benefit/cost ratio are still accepted to a high degree by the exhibiting and visiting industry. IWA & Outdoor Classics – like the many special-interest events at the Nurnberg exhibition venue – is one of these still fully accepted trade fairs. This exhibition is a gem, which we carefully and intensively care for – we will do everything in our power to make sure IWA & Outdoor Classics does not lose its noted and internationally recognized business character.”
Worth mentioning is the increased international mix of both exhibitors and visitors: The share of international visitors was 73%. The largest international contingent of exhibits came from the U.S.A. with 178 companies. The visitors offered a multinational picture: over 100 nations met at the event and accounted for 56% of the total number of visitors. Due to the high level of international participation, export and third-country business dominated at the show. Over 25,000 total visitors attended this year.
Exhibitor satisfaction was found to be high. The quality of the contacts and the growing number of new visitor target groups they met were cited. In particular, growing numbers of visitors from the outdoor accessory and hunting and leisure knife segments were noted. “These are the reasons for the appreciable growth in the number of visitors in 2003,” explains Hannwacker. “A trend from which all exhibiting companies at IWA profited.”
Her statement is reinforced by a neutral survey taken of exhibitors. An overwhelming 90% of the exhibitors summed up their show participation as “extremely positive;” 93% considered the composition of the products offered at the show as “right;” some 95% reached their company’s most important target groups at the exhibition; and, 91% rated their company’s participation as “important” or “very important.”
Further, 94% of exhibitors said they made new business contacts; 80% received a direct order – although the acquisition of direct orders was not a priority for many exhibitors. Consequently, 95% expect good follow-up business. Virtually all exhibitors (98%) supplied information to international trade visitors on their stands. Next year’s show will directly profit from these results as 85% of this year’s exhibitors have already firmly decided to exhibit at the 2004 fair and another 11% are considering it.
Visitor Survey Results
The show’s good mood was also felt by trade visitors: 98% of the visitors interviewed by a neutral institute responded they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the products offered and 97% rated the contact opportunities on the exhibition stands as “good.”
Some 62% of trade visitors said they attended to obtain information; 60% came to see new products, 43% cultivated contacts with their suppliers, 36% visited to pave the way for business relationships, 33% came with the firm intention of buying, and another 33% of the visitors use the show platform to meet colleagues, exchange views and hold talks (multiple answers given).
It should be noted; IWA does one of the best jobs of vetting its visitors among the various trade shows. In fact, it is a violation of the German Penal Law to enter the show under false pretenses.
World Market Statistics
The world market for hunting and sporting guns has an estimated annual trading volume of around four billion Euros, plus another one billion Euros for hunting and sporting ammunition.
Over two million shooters in organized associations and some 400,000 hunters pursue their hobby in Germany. This means that Germany occupies a special role, as the counts in other major EU member states are inversely proportional. For example, France has about 1.7 million hunters and 200,000 shooters. There are 925,000 hunters and 100,000 shooters in Italy. In Spain, between 1.3 million and 1.6 million hunting licenses are issued annually and there are also some 150,000 Spanish shooters.
Dependent on Exports
The European firearms industry is heavily dependent on exports. According to first through third quarter 2002 figures from the German Federal Statistics Office, German companies manufactured hunting and sporting guns and gun components worth 170 million Euros in 2002, a gain of 3% over the prior year’s total of 166 million Euros.
Total German exports of hunting and sporting firearms, including gun components, amounted to 136 million Euros during the first nine months of 2002, an increase of 4% over 2001’s total of 131 million Euros. Imports of hunting and sporting guns and gun components to Germany were worth around 56 million Euros during 2002, which corresponded to results from the prior year’s first nine months.
“IWA and Outdoor Classics 2003 generated a dynamic signal for confident optimism in the industry,” stated Klaus Gotzen, general manager of the Verband der Hersteller von Jagd-, Sportwaffen und Munition (Association of the Manufacturers of Hunting, Sporting Arms and Ammunition). “This IWA was full of productive talks and common interests beyond national boundaries.”
The uncertainty about proposed amendments to the German National Firearms Act has led to reluctance among many consumers to make additional purchases of firearms (this reluctance [and the German respect for authority] greatly contrasts with the attitude of American gun enthusiasts who rush out to buy firearms anytime a major new firearms law is proposed). The new German law was finally passed last fall and took effect April 1. Among its provisions are a ban on pump-action shotguns, but a lifting of prohibitions against use of hollow point handgun ammunition.
Gotzen noted, “The passage of the Act should remove the noticeable uncertainty among shooters in the last few years due to the constant new rumors about more stringent new laws coming into effect.”
European Market Makeup
There are about 1,200 gun shops in Germany. There are 3,000 in France, 5,000 in Italy and 2,000 in Spain. Some 680 gun shops in Germany are members of the Verband der Deutschen Buchsenmacher und Waffenfachhandler (Association of the German Gunsmiths and Arms Specialty Shops). There are also around 2,000 gun shops in Great Britain, of which only some 400 are members of an association (which may account for why the U.K. government has such an easy time in imposing additional restrictions on the industry in that country).
There are about 10 million hunters in the 15 EU countries. The total industrial turnover in 12 of those countries is about 1 billion Euros. Consumer spending on hunting and shooting articles is estimated at 12.8 billion Euros and there are about 50,000 employees in the industry. For comparison, the total turnover for ammunition in Germany is estimated at about 61 million Euros, of which 38 million Euros are for imports.
IWA Exhibitor Breakdown
Over 60% of the IWA exhibitors present hunting and sporting guns, handguns, replicas, decorative arms, gun components and offer machining services. Everything available on the market is shown – from reasonably-priced standard products and high quality custom-made guns to valuable deluxe collector’s items. The emphasis in the firearms segment, however, is on higher grade guns. Another 15% of exhibitors show ammunition and 12% are in the optics segment.
Personal security and law enforcement goods remain a growth segment. Other exhibitors present hunting gifts (9%), trade literature (6%) and accessory makers are also well-represented.
Unlike its American counterpart, the S.H.O.T. Show, at IWA a grand opening ceremony is held (which includes speeches by industry leaders), before the show officially opens.
Franz Wonisch, president of the Association of Manufacturers of Hunting and Sporting Arms and Ammunition began his remarks by recalling how IWA has evolved from an initially small, quiet exhibition for gunsmiths and gun shops into the leading international meeting place of the industry.
Turning his attention to the recent amendment to the German firearms law, he said that Federal Minister of the Interior, Schily and his state secretaries, “in contrast to their predecessors, have consulted both the user associations and the industry and trade early on. The association representatives thus had many opportunities to contribute their arguments. The Act now passed certainly cannot be described as a ‘masterpiece,’ but at least a compromise was reached in large parts between the interests of internal security and the justified interests of legal gun owners. A Firearms Act has thus been achieved that is acceptable to all sides.”
The various German gun industry associations cooperated in the amendment work “in a previously unknown manner,” Wonisch continued. “This, together with the many letters from hunters and shooters to their members of parliament ensured that the bizarre ideas of many German states concerning stricter laws are not reflected in the law as passed.”
Nearly 180 American exhibitors were present at the show, and 50 of them were situated in the USA Pavilion in Hall 5. For those visitors who did not speak English, interpreters for almost all European languages and Chinese were available in the same hall. The Americans were the exhibition’s largest group of foreign exhibitors. The American Pavilion comprised about 530-square-meters.
For 14 years, the USA Pavilion has been a part of the show. The sponsor is the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, which also has a stand in the Pavilion to disseminate information about the American market. For the first time, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives had a stand and it was busy with attendees asking questions about U.S. import and export regulations.
Czech Firearms Industry
A radical reconstruction has taken place in the Czech Republic since 1990 in the development and manufacture of handguns and ammunition, notes Dr. Petr Gilka, privy councilor of the Czech Ministry of Industry & Trade and director of the official Czech participation at IWA.
“A whole range of companies has been established which develop, manufacture and, increasingly export handguns and long guns to over 70 other countries,” Gilka says. “About 85% of Czech exports are in the high quality segment. At IWA this year, 28 Czech manufacturers, exporters and firms from the hunting and accessories sectors took part in the Czech section of the fair, which comprised an area of almost 700-square-meters. This included such well-known companies as CZ, Sellier & Bellot, Meopta and Explosia. Also present were suppliers of knives, leather goods, clothing, and gift articles.
Among the many new products seen at the fair, Taurus Forjas, S.A. (known in the U.S. as Taurus International Manufacturing), received a lot of attention from visitors for their new removable short arm rest handgun stock, as well as the Generation III series of its popular Millennium pistols, known as the Millennium Pro line. Improvements include a captured dual spring and guide rod assembly; a re-engineered flush fit magazine release and an internal firing pin lock. There is also a larger 3-dot sighting system, a new grip design, positive slide serrations, sharper grip checkering with ambidextrous thumb and forefinger Memory Pads, an integral magazine base extension, an enlarged external safety, and a shorter, smoother trigger.
Also in the handgun segment, Korth GmbH, of Ratzeburg, Germany, the acknowledged leader among high-end handgun manufacturers, introduced two new products worthy of note. The first is a .357 Magnum revolver allowing external manual adjustment of the main striker spring, enabling the user to achieve higher accuracy. Korth also introduced their “Troja” (Trojan) revolver line built to the same exacting standards the firm has become famous for, but with a lesser degree of final finish polishing. Retailing for $3,995.00 (USD), it is available in .22LR, .22 WMR, .357 Mag., and .32 S&W Long.
Incidentally, Korth is seeking additional retailers in the U.S. to carry their line. For more information call Earl Sheehan Jr. at: 978-851-8656 or e-mail to: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
UMAREX is now making the Walther P99 pistol in a gas signal version with camouflage finish. And their .22 caliber P22 pistol is now available with a camouflage finish as well. UMAREX and Smith & Wesson are reported as jointly researching the development of a user-authorized firearm, or so-called “smart gun.” Reportedly the system works with a sensor pad on the trigger, which can read the fingerprint of the authorized user and allow the trigger to be depressed.
In other IWA news, consideration is being given to adding a fifth day to the fair, during which, it would be opened to the public. A survey is being taken of exhibitors.
SAR’s Industry News columnist, Robert M. Hausman, is also the editor and publisher of the small arms industry’s two most respected business-to-business publications – The New Firearms Business, a bi-monthly newsletter covering the marketing, legal and regulatory aspects of the domestic firearms industry. Published 22-times per year, an annual subscription to Firearms Business is just $110. Published monthly, The International Firearms Trade is of interest to those firms doing business abroad, such as importer or exporters, or those considering doing so. A subscription to the 12-page International Firearms Trade costs just $70 for one year. To order either publication, send a check to made payable in the name of the desired publication (FT or IFT) to: P.O. Box 98, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819 USA.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V6N11 (August 2003)|