When the 2016 ATA Trade Show opens Jan. 5 in Louisville, Kentucky, it will mark the 20th anniversary of the archery and bowhunting industry’s chief business and social event, which annually draws about 9,500 retailing, manufacturing and marketing professionals.
The 2016 ATA Trade Show will play host to 615 exhibitors, who booked a record 229,000 square feet of booth space. In other words, you’d need four NFL football fields, laid goal post to goal post, to accommodate just the Show’s booths, minus the aisles. In fact, if you crammed all those booths on the 4.5-acre flight deck of the USS Harry S. Truman, you’d still need half of a football field for the spillover.
The Show’s roots, however, are more modest. The Archery Trade Association was known as the Archery Manufacturers and Merchants Organization (AMO) when it held its first trade show in January 1997.
That inaugural show, also held in Louisville, attracted 6,000 attendees. And, while AMO owned the show, the organization and its staff did not yet manage show operations. Those services were provided by private contractors from 1997 to 2002. Therefore, the industry had limited ability to capitalize on the Show’s potential for growing and promoting archery and bowhunting. That all changed once the ATA took full control of the Show’s management and operations at the January 2003 Show.
“Today, the ATA is the hallmark of all trade organizations,” said Scott Shultz, chair of the ATA’s Board of Directors. “The ATA Trade Show is a benchmark that all others envy and aspire to. It’s among the best run, most organized and most profitable of any trade show on the planet.”
Shultz said the turnaround began in earnest after the AMO assumed control of the Show in July 2002. Later that year, the AMO changed its name to the “Archery Trade Association” to better identify itself as a service-oriented trade association that’s dedicated to helping its dues-paying members. The groundwork for those changes began two years earlier, however.
“Things started changing in August 2000 when the AMO Board hired Jay McAninch as its president and CEO,” Shultz said. “Over the next couple of years, Jay resolved the industry’s excise-tax issues, paid off its debts, and resolved its legal issues. After that, he took full control of the ATA Show. Ever since, the Show has helped fund ATA initiatives that promote and grow archery and bowhunting in every state. Thanks to the Show, the ATA has $5 million in the bank reserved to protect, promote and fund projects for our awesome sports.”
With the Show owned by the ATA and operated by its staff and reliable volunteers, the event also became the industry’s premier showcase each January for cutting-edge products and innovations.
“Everyone who works on the Show understands it’s the life-blood of our industry,” McAninch said. “We got off to a rough start in those early years, but once the Show was ours to own and operate, it became a great fundraising mechanism that benefits every ATA member, whether they’re retailers, manufacturers, buyers, distributors, media, or sales and service. It’s a no-frills event. Everything is geared toward business and efficiency to maximize the net proceeds that help grow archery and bowhunting.”
During the past decade, the Show has provided nearly $13 million in funds, staff expertise, and resources to state agencies, city and county parks-and-rec departments, archery and bowhunting organizations and other well-vetted groups for building archery ranges and archery parks; and operating after-school and community archery and bowhunting programs such as National Archery in the Schools Programs. The Show also helped fund the creation and implementation of programs like Explore Archery, Explore Bowhunting, Explore Bowfishing and the Retail Growth Initiative.
“By attending the Show, everyone invests in our sports’ futures,” McAninch said. “Today, each Show generates net proceeds of about $2.2 to $2.3 million to help grow archery, bowhunting and the industry itself. And it’s working. Between 2012 and 2014, our sports grew from 18.9 million archers/bowhunters to 21.6 million, a nearly 15 percent increase. Since we began this effort, the number of Americans shooting bows and arrows as increased by nearly 3 times. Every ATA member should take pride in those numbers.”
To help celebrate the Show’s 20th anniversary, several longtime industry veterans shared their thoughts on the ATA Trade Show, past and present. Click here for quotes and the full version of this press release.
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