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HuntEx | Hunting market | GrowingHuntEx is characterised by busy stands, queues of visitors and whole families visiting . Photos: courtesy of HuntEx.
May 2016

Hunting market

keeps on growing

Nearly 50 000 visitors at HuntEx this year showed that consumer interest in the hunting market is high

All indications are that the hunting and firearms market is still very much alive and well and trading in Gauteng. This year’s HuntEx was a good example of the popular appeal of not only hunting gear, but also the many related products like knives, clothing and camping gear. More than 48 000 people filled the Gallagher Convention Centre over four days in April — 153% growth when compared to the number of visitors when the first show was held in 2011.

This year the number of exhibitors grew 7.5% to nearly 400, which included several international exhibitors. But, the double-digit growth in visitor numbers of the first few years have slowed to 5.5% compared to last year — and this figure also for the first time includes exhibitors and staff. This year the show was held over two working and two weekend days, while it was held over a weekend, public holiday and one working day last year. It is evident that the show draws more people when held over public holidays, says HuntEx organizer Adriaan Woudstra.

“In spite of a general slowing down in the economy with South Africans having less disposable household income, exhibitors still recorded good sales at this year's show,” he says.

Most exhibitors who gave us feedback support this view.

This was actually their best ever year trading at HuntEx, because they came better prepared, says Charles Montgomery of Suburban Guns. “I thought the show was well organised, well advertised, and not so crowded as past years.” Products like accessories, optics, night vision and thermal imagers sold especially well for them.

They were extremely busy over all four days, reports Michelle Kramps of Awesome Tools, who was especially happy with the visitor response to their Ledlenser lights, Leatherman tools and Benchmade knives.

Other exhibitors commented from “We were happy overall, although the Sunday was a bit slow” to “It wasn’t as crowded as previous years, but this made it easier to talk to visitors” and at the other end of the spectrum, “Very quiet. Our trading was down from last year.”

The popularity of a show like HuntEx is a reflection of the general growth in shooting sports participation, says Woudstra, citing the 30% growth in participation the SA Hunters and Conservation Organisation recorded over its 74 branches during 2015. “Hunting and sport shooting organisations across the country are enjoying a revival of sport shooting as a hobby or competitive sport,” he says.

While the retail industry obviously benefits from growing participation in a sport, this has also resulted in many dealers getting into the trade and the market becoming overtraded. “There is a lot of false marketing with products hugely discounted, which makes the industry very competitive,” cautions Montgomery.

Women’s market growing

The growing popularity is not only among the traditional adult male target market: more and more women and young people are joining the sport. “There is an increase in the number of women who rank among the top men as shooters, and among the top performers are also students who compete shoulder to shoulder against older and experienced men.”

This was again reflected at HuntEx, where several exhibitors also catered for female hunting and sport shooting customers, in the form of clothing ranges and outdoor products that appealed to women. “We realized that for every man who hunts or shoots, there is usually a wife, girlfriend or daughter accompanying him.”

But, as the enormous popularity of the annual NAMPO show indicates, the hunting and shooting industry is just part of many bigger and diverse industries who benefit from the participation growth. Prospective exhibitors have to wait years before their names get to the top of the waiting list to show their wares to about 70 000 visitors who attend the Free State show in May.

Among them are game farmers, game breeders and the conservation industry that benefit from hunting, none less than Gauteng High Court judge JRG Polson wrote when he granted an order overturning a decision by the Central Firearms Register to deny a professional hunter the renewal of his firearms license.

After describing the economic benefits of the trophy hunting industry, he continued: the hospitality industry, as well as the tourist industry, is given an injection, particularly during the hunting season. Specialised vehicles are created for every thinkable purpose during the hunting process; taxidermists can be found in every large centre of the country. Individuals are being trained and skilled to deal with trophies after the hunt … Job creation, not only in the hospitality industry, but also on the farms, has become dependent on the hunting industry.

Other beneficiaries he mentioned are the trackers and manufacturers of camping equipment, rifles and ammunition.

With such a glowing reference from a judge, the economic contribution of the firearms industry is clearly a far cry from the doom and gloom a decade ago. Now, about 1.75-m South Africans are licensed to own 3-m firearms, SAPS said last year.

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