Bowhunting is a hobby, a sport, a passion and a lifestyle.
But as those of us who make a living in the archery industry know, it is also a business. And like all businesses, companies involved in making bowhunting gear are here to make a profit. Those that do thrive, and the others quite simply don't survive.
That's an important and sobering fact to remember as we prepare for the 2013 Archery Trade Association (ATA) Show, which will take place January 7-9 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. Hundreds of companies will be there to show off the latest and greatest bowhunting gear, and the sales they generate — or fail to generate — off next week's show will go a long way to determining their financial success or failure in 2013.
A major recession, followed by a less-than-stellar recovery, has taken a toll on every sector of the U.S. economy over the past few years, and the archery industry certainly hasn't been immune. And, like other industries, one of the resulting trends is continual consolidation, with larger, stronger players gobbling up smaller competitors or complementary brands.
Some of the notable deals in recent months include the parent company of Rage Broadheads acquiring Muzzy, Bushnell acquiring Primos and the parent company of Elite Archery acquiring Scott Archery and Custom Bow Equipment. And on Friday, Elite's parent (The Outdoor Group LLC) announced it has also added Winner's Choice Custom Bowstrings and Solid Broadhead Company to its stable.
Even InterMedia Outdoors (the parent company of Petersen's Bowhunting) has gotten in on the act, announcing it will add The Outdoor Channel to its growing outdoor media empire. As we head into the ATA Show next week, I'm betting even more such announcements will be made in the days ahead.
From a purely financial perspective, consolidation makes plenty of sense. Smaller companies can benefit from the added resources offered by larger suitors, and the larger, acquiring companies can expand their product portfolios with established brands at a cost far less than building anything similar from the ground up. In that sense, you can make the argument these mergers are a "win-win" for both parties.
On the other hand, there is no denying that as the pace of consolidation increases, consumers (in this case, bowhunters) are presented with fewer choices when it comes to the number of companies offer them products. Granted, the bowhunting business is still A LONG WAY from being dominated by just a couple major players like Coke and Pepsi dominate the soft drink market.
There are still plenty of great companies and great products out there. But gone are the days when basement dreamers could simply take a good idea and jump into the hunting business. These days, the cost of entry is higher than ever, and with the major players getting bigger all the time, you better have some deep pockets if you plan to jump into the fray and seriously compete for market share.
And in that regard, I suppose the archery industry is no different than any other in modern-day America.
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