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Working the Show: Shedhorn Sports, Ennis, Montana
Welcome to NSSF’s SHOT Show column, “Working the Show.” Designed to help retailers and range owners of all sizes realize the most from their time and money spent in Las Vegas every year at SHOT Show, “Working the Show” examines how these retailers, along with manufacturers and media members, are maintaining contacts, responding to trends, changing their marketing based on their purchases and other follow-up tactics. Of course, a critical part of every plan while visiting SHOT Show should be to stop by the NSSF booth and learn more about your benefits and meet the NSSF team. We look forward to your visit!

—John McNamara, NSSF Senior Director, Retailer Services

Shedhorn moves old inventory online to make way for new.

Shedhorn Sports in Ennis, Montana, was founded by Rob Gallentine in 1979. The business began as just a small department within a Gambles Hardware store 50 miles from Bozeman where Rob and his dad, Glen, operated a family outfitting business offering high-country summer pack trips and guided big-game hunts. At the time, southwest Montana didn't have a sporting goods store available that catered to hunters in the area, so a niche was identified and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, the hardware store is no more, but the family tradition of Shedhorn Sports continues as one of the most respected sporting goods retailers in Montana.

Similar to other outdoor retailers, Shedhorn offers guns, ammunition, hunting equipment, archery gear and adventure clothing. Its downtown location is within walking distance of the famous Madison River, making Shedhorn’s fishing tackle business brisk, as well.

Gallentine’s mission is to see customers enjoy the outdoors by offering high-quality products at competitive prices. Gallentine begins formulating his buying strategy for the year immediately following SHOT Show but admits he does “sit on his heels a little bit,” taking in other shows before putting his plan in place at his buyer’s show.

“The SHOT Show is kind of a predecessor for me to Sports, Inc.’s buying group,” explains Gallentine about the brief lag time between SHOT Show and when he does most of his actual buying. “With SHOT Show, I kind of come home and I say ‘All right, if I’ve gotta buy something, I’m going to do it through the buying group — unless it is something different like [something new from] Freedom Arms. After SHOT, I came back and ordered three more Freedom Arms handguns to come in this year. We just got done with a Sports Inc. show in Phoenix, where we spent $700,000 to $800,000 with several manufacturers.”

When it comes to trying to directly monetize SHOT Show, Gallentine calls it “a wash,” noting that, unfortunately, a lot of manufacturers don’t yet have price lists available. As such, SHOT doesn’t directly affect his buying much, though he says he enjoys Vegas and that it’s important for him to be there to see exclusives from big brands such as Browning and Winchester. “With Les Baer and Ed Brown, you’re not going to see them anywhere else in the world,” he concedes. After SHOT, Gallentine places his dealer-direct orders within the month.

New products at Shedhorn Sports after SHOT Show

Using social media during the show to talk about new products, followed by repeat mentions after the show and “New at Shedhorn” announcements keep the foot traffic brisk and the register ringing.

During and after SHOT, Shedhorn keeps customers informed about new items and product lines through social media and its website. Gallentine calls his Facebook marketing plan “viable” and notes that they’re always trying to do better at it. Radio and TV “do well,” according to him, but for Shedhorn, print advertising just doesn’t work.

“We picked up Proof Research,” Gallentine says of an example of a new product line he added at this year’s SHOT Show. “Met them at SHOT Show and I went through the items with the guys there and decided ‘Yes, I’m going to bring in Proof Research.’ It’s a Montana company and they’re supposed to be the best carbon-fiber barrels out there, so it’s on Facebook now along with a couple other new lines.”

Gallentine says they post about new products both during the show and throughout the year. “It’s good that everybody who sees Shedhorn Sports online [at SHOT Show] knows that we're looking for new products,” Gallentine says of their social media posts. After SHOT is over, he posts those new products on both Facebook and his website when they actually come into the store and promotes those items as “New at Shedhorn.” “Every gun in the store is on our website organized by manufacturer. Anybody cruising my inventory will see it,” he adds.

Gun Sales - Moving old inventory

Instead of waiting until the last minute and blowing out inventory in a rush (and often at a loss) as many retailers do, Shedhorn works diligently throughout the early winter months before SHOT Show to move its older inventory.

With lots of new products coming in, Gallentine works to eliminate old inventory during November and December, rather than try and blow it out at the last minute. “Moving old inventory by discounting it or whatever just doesn’t work very well for me,” he says.

That is unless it’s optics. “Scope lines are different,” Gallentine explains, saying how optics makers constantly make tweaks, leaving him with “old” optics on the shelf that in-store customers don’t want because they expect to see only the newest products. “We use eBay for that,” Gallentine says of how he moves out last year’s optics. “We try to get rid of them on eBay so that when a customer comes in the store looking for a bino, he doesn’t buy the discontinued one that you don’t make any profit on. He buys the new model that you actually make a few hundred dollars on.”

Though 2018 may ultimately end up being a challenging year for retailers, Gallentine came back from SHOT a little bit more enthusiastic about the coming year. “I was a little bit more aggressive in my buying after I got done there,” he says. “I think it’s going to be a good year. I came away really excited about this coming year.”

See how Shedhorn’s dedication to both its die-hard hunting clientele and its staff makes it a destination retailer in this “From the Counter” column by Peter Mathiessen.

About the Author
Warren Berg is a 25-year veteran of the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry. He has penned hundreds of articles under many names for such storied publications as American Rifleman and Field & Stream. He has produced award-winning television programs on personal-defense and has hunted extensively in North America, Europe 
and Africa.