State of the Hunting Industry Report | November 2009

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Understand how the state of the economy is affecting the hunting industry

Edition 1           A Publication of Hunting Business Marketing        November 2009

Opportunities for companies expanding focus on the Web

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image credit: blhphotography

Introduction

The past 12+ months have been difficult for the entire world economy including businesses in the hunting industry. Hunting business owners have seen decreases in revenue and profit across the board and many have had to cut their staff or go out of business completely.

As companies have cut back on their discretionary spending, outfitters have seen their rate of corporate bookings drop dramatically from just a couple seasons ago. Like corporations, individual hunters have cut back on their discretionary spending. This has meant that a hunter may have passed on purchasing a new bow or a new tree stand this year in favor of saving money to pay off debt or to save for another rainy day.

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Times have been tough as consumers retrench and get their spending in line with a more sustainable economy. Hunting businesses have had to admit to this change in consumer mindset.

But while sales have been difficult to come by over the past year, there are opportunities for companies that are determined to expand their focus on the Web.

The businesses that have been able to weather the drop in spending are looking for ways to expand their customer base by focusing on what hunter want and need to fulfill their passions. Quality hunting businesses will always have the benefit of providing products and experiences that play into the passions of hunters. While a hunter may cut back on spending on big spending items, they may look for new parts so they can fix up their major hunting equipment.

Also, there is opportunity for quality hunting businesses to step into vacant spots left by businesses that have gone by the wayside. Hunters will still look for companies they can trust to provide for them. A business that can successfully move into new product and service offerings can expand their own business while the overall economy flattens.

Part of the opportunity for hunting businesses lies with online marketing – businesses that are able to successfully find ways to connect with consumers through online contact methods will find that they are able to build a trust that will provide long-term customers.

Is your business looking to expand its focus on the Web? If you’re not, your competitors probably are and they’ll be there to scoop up the void left by struggling businesses.

The Web

The Web is the opportunity is for businesses expand. Businesses that seem to have weathered the economic downfall the best in the past 12+ months seem to be the companies that build trust with their customers.

Connection channels such as blogs, forums, contests, video, photo galleries, and other forms of connection with customers are ways successful companies have been able to maintain their loyal customers while other businesses have lost their sales due to lack of commitment to their customers.

What is your business doing online today that will create trust between you and your customers that will lead to growth in the future?

A Look Forward

Let’s look at a few economic articles and see how the happenings today will affect your business tomorrow…

Economic Trends

Upper-Income Consumers Pull Back Their Spending

From Gallup (Sept. 18, 2009):

Despite a $2 trillion increase in U.S. household wealth last quarter, upper-income Americans’ self-reported average daily spending in stores, restaurants, gas stations, and online is down 37% in the first half of September from September of a year ago. This decline — which is worse than the 28% decline in spending among middle- and lower-income Americans, and is worse than the August upper-income decline — is not good news, especially for upscale retailers and big-ticket-item sales.

Consumer Spending Sept. 2009

Continue reading the full article Upper-Income Consumers Pull Back Their Spending

Impact on your business

With many outfitting customers being upper-income consumers as well as upper-income businesses who purchase group outfitting packages, the fact that this group of individuals are not spending more this fall hunting season may prove for a difficult sales season for hunting businesses.

The importance of creating trusting relationships with your customers is even more important during slower economic times as customers put more focus on their overall spending. Customers will look to do business with companies who offer trust along with quality products and services.

Today might be an opportunity to work on providing an email newsletter campaign that keeps you in touch with your customers on a regular basis. Include things like related articles written by your team, new photos from this season’s hunts, etc. Try doing things that let your customers know you care about them and their spending money.

Economic Indicators

Americans See Little Hope of Finding a Quality Job

From Gallup (Oct. 2009):

Gallup finds 10% of Americans feeling that now is a “good time” to find a quality job, reflecting no improvement since February, and less than the 33% who held similar views as the recession began in January 2008 and the 14% recorded as the financial crisis hit the economy in full force last October.

Finding a Job

Read the entire article Americans See Little Hope of Finding a Quality Job

Impact on your business

Jobs drive savings in any economy and savings drive spending.

If your company depends on hunters spending having and spending discretionary income then unemployment is a key economic indicator for your business growth in the future. Watch the unemployment rate and look for news articles that indicate that companies continue to cut back and not hire or for any reverses in the current employment trends. This will be a good indicator for your corporate and individual consumer growth.

But as with anything, there are advantages available for those who are observant…

For an interesting trend please read Consumers Spend More on Weekends, Payday Weeks

Hunting Industry News

Direct Strong For Cabela’s Despite Cutbacks (Web traffic up 14.9%)

From Direct Magazine (Oct. 2009):

Cabela’s Inc., generated $624.3 million in revenue during its most recent third quarter, up from $611.8 million a year ago. The company’s net income jumped from $9.7 million to $18.8 million between the quarters. The most recent quarter ended Sept. 26.

During an earnings call, CEO Tommy Millner said the company would not be as aggressive in reducing catalog pages as it was in 2009. But it is going to continue to shift spending from paper catalogs to electronic channels. Traffic to the company’s Web site jumped 14.9%, Millner said, and he does not anticipate this slacking anytime soon.

Continue reading Direct Strong For Cabela’s Despite Cutbacks

Impact on your business

Cabela’s has long been one of the best run companies in the hunting industry. They provide quality products and services to hunters and those hunters continue to use their discretionary income to make hunting-related purchases from Cabela’s because Cabela’s has built up a trust.

Over the past year it seems that Cabela’s has reorganized its business for the future of consumer spending, which will see consumers reorganizing their own spending habits. As consumers begin to save again, they’ll only use financial services for big purchases from companies they trust (Cabela’s). These customers will also spend wisely on products of high quality that will last longer rather than looking for the lowest cost, lowest quality, and lowest lifetime.

The future will be about quality. The companies that provide quality products and services through trusting connections with consumers will thrive in the new hunting industry paradigm.

Hunting Industry Trends

Will the Economy Hurt Whitetail Deer Hunting This Year?

From HuntsWhitetail.com (2009):

There’s one very big money-saving benefit to hunting whitetail deer, though.

Spending too much on food these days? The whitetail deer hunting season might be just the solution you’re looking for. Deer is a great addition to the diet and is healthy and tasty.

The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department isn’t sure, but Randy Curtis did tell Fox44.net that “more people may hunt this fall to save money on groceries.”

Sure, saving money on our families’ food probably isn’t the primary reason we hunt, but if it gives us another reason to get out in the fields this year and bag ourselves a nice deer, I’ll take it.

Continue reading the full article Will the Economy Hurt Whitetail Deer Hunting This Year?

Impact on your business

While hunters may look to the woods for food during the economic downturn, hunting is still an expensive passion. The article above does a great job of exploring both sides of the argument. Hunters who have lost their jobs as unemployment continues to rise will have to cut back in some places in order to get by with only what they need and a little bit of what they love.

Where will hunting fall in the list of priorities for your customers?

Notes from Kevin Paulson of Hunting Life (2009):

“I think the state of the Hunting Industry has been filled with a year of ups and downs right along with the economy.  This has been a year of strong cut backs for many hunters who just have not had the money to spend.  Those hunters are still hunting but they are hunting much closer to home for the most part. Outfitters and lodges have seen a dramatic drop in the number of calls coming from new hunters.”

“Dedicated hunters are still pursuing their passions of hunting and conservation. Corporate bookings are almost non-existent this year, but there are still companies offering them to select customers.”

“Most hunters this year have kept to purchases that are essential versus the wants that most hunters have.  This year I kept my bow instead of upgrading and spent a few extra dollars for really nice arrows.  As well this year, I have worked with a lot of individual companies purchasing items direct versus using the big box stores because I knew I was helping out a small manufacturer versus big business.”

For more from Kevin Paulson and Hunting Life check out Twitter @HuntingLife and Facebook.

Conclusions

Times are tough in the hunting industry, but there is always opportunity. (For one last story on opportunity, see Surrounded by Job Losses, Montana’s Firearms Industry Thrives).

Unemployment will likely remain flat or even continue falling as companies cut back to remain profitable. Until something comes up in the future that will drive jobs again, consumer spending will remain at reasonable levels. It’s unlikely we’ll see the outrageous consumer spending of 2002-2007 every again.

While these boom times are gone, there is still great opportunity for hunting businesses to expand and grow.

Consumers, including hunters, are going to look for companies they can trust to provide the best quality products and services. While consumers will remain cost-conscious with their spending, they’ll be more long-term focused, which means that spending a little more today is all right as long as the product or service is the most beneficial option for the long-term.

There is also great opportunity for hunting businesses on the Web.

Customers are looking for the businesses that are willing to reach out and connect on a meaningful and valuable level and the place they’re looking is online. Start a blog, become active in online communities and on your own Website. Engage your customers and look to provide value to their hunting passion.

The companies that provide long-term value for customers will find success in the future hunting industry.

Copyright Notice

This publication is NOT copyrighted by Hunting Business Marketing. All contents are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States. Please share the contents of this report via any channel you prefer with any hunting businesses owners you know who would benefit from receiving a copy. Please provide attribution to Hunting Business Marketing.

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DISCLAIMER: The information, tools and material presented herein are provided for informational purposes only and are not to be used or considered as an offer or a solicitation to sell or an offer or solicitation to buy or subscribe for securities, investment products or other financial instruments, nor to constitute any advice or recommendation with respect to such securities, investment products or other financial instruments. This research report is prepared for general circulation. It does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and the particular needs of any specific person who may receive this report. You should independently evaluate particular business decisions before making any moves or changes in relation to any content mentioned in this report. [/private_member]

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Created by Dayne Shuda

Hunting Business Marketing

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Dayne Shuda

I'm a blogger and hunting enthusiast. Follow me on Twitter.