Fact or Fiction? – With 2020, it’s anyone’s guess
2020, what a great year (insert mostly sarcasm here). 2020 has brought us unprecedented changes in life, a global pandemic still of undetermined impact and severity, literally an incendiary presidential race, and hell, even murder hornets. But there has been a silver lining—people getting outdoors. If you would have told me that oil prices would have gone negative for the first time in history and at the same time, the outdoors would be the next boom, I would have told you that Tom Brady was going to leave the Pats to join a team with an overall losing record for the last 43 years… oh wait, that happened too… watch Tampa win the Superbowl this year… not that I even watch the NFL any more.
Where was I? Oh, yes, the outdoors. The exact numbers are hard to find, but if sporting goods stores’ shelves, boat ramps, and camp site occupancy levels were used as metrics, not to mention the totally separate run on guns and ammo, then you could firmly say we have had a year for the record books. Though I am not sure which record book: Guinness World Records or Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Curiosity about that got to me, so I scoured the internet for data. I found that according to Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, the nation’s leading coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations, including the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds; Outdoor Industry Association; National Forest Recreation Association; American Sportfishing Association; and National Marine Manufacturers Association along with 18 others, representing over 110,000 RVing, camping, boating, fishing, power sports, horseback, hunting, skiing, hiking, and biking businesses, reports show more than 81 percent of Americans said they spent time outside over the past six months, 31 percent for the first time. Fishing license sales are up across the board: Pennsylvania’s license sales are up 20 percent, Iowa’s are up 33 percent, and New Hampshire’s sales have risen 40 percent. RVs have experienced some of the best sales they have had in four decades. Camper sales were up 92 percent in August, and 49 percent year over year. Moreover, first-time buyers represented 55 percent of these sales with the fastest-growing segment being people under age 45. From a firearms perspective, gun sales hit a record high, with the National Shooting Sports Foundation reporting a 139-percent average increase in ammunition sales and a 95-percent increase in firearms sales. First-time buyers flooded retailers to get their hands on guns. Of the newcomers, 50 percent were aged 40 or under, with half that figure aged 30 or younger. According to the NSSF’s adjusted figures, over 12 million background checks were run through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s NICS from January 2020 to July 2020, with five million Americans purchasing their first firearm during that time.
The business side of all this is great (and I hate to even say that because I know of so many other business owners who have lost so much and folks still laid off in our industry and outside of it), but seeing more people get involved in the outdoors, hunting and fishing, and firearms does make me very happy and proud to be part of this industry. After all, the outdoors is the only place apparently that COVID won’t get you… unless you’re in California or Michigan of course. Anyway, seeing all these folks realize that there is more to life than iPhones, Xboxes, and all-inclusive cattle-car kinds of vacations makes me smile. Seeing people, young and old, surrounding community ponds with rods in hand, hiking trails bustling with city-dwellers, campfires burning, surrounded with chatter and laughs, all give me hope that 2020 hasn’t been as bad as we all have made it out to be. Unless of course Cardi B gets appointed somehow as Speaker of the House. Then I am signing up for that Mars exploration crew, and you will find me hunting for Martians from here on out.
Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, safe hunting, and cheers to 2021 y’all! See you next year and hopefully, all this is behind us. After all, turning 21 was much more fun than turning 20!
John J. Radzwilla
PS. You read that 21 vs. 20 deal here first, so if someone makes a million off of it, you owe me a cut!