2014 Gear Industry Trends and Themes
For the first time SHOT Show attendee (like me), there’s a lot to take in at once. With thousands of new products coming to the market and an array of new gadgetry, it’s a bit overwhelming to wade through it all and find the best of the best. But after just a day on the floor, there are a few trends that seemed to have permeated the concepts and offerings of 2014.
Past vs. Future
Those who are passionate about gear often find themselves in a strange dichotomy–a desire to be connected with warriors and explorers from the days of old, while still embracing and experimenting with new innovative technology. It can be a harmonious balance when done right. Elk horn knives are on display with laser-cut goggles, and 3D printed handled-tools are paired with traditional leather sheaths. It’s an interesting mix from a design perspective. That’s the nature of the industry, and it ripples throughout the knife industry especially.
An abundance of fixed blades and outdoor wearables makes it apparent that bushcraft is back. Representatives at the Buck Knives and Kershaw Knives affirmed this, noting that they’ve received enthusiastic responses about upcoming machetes, fixed blades, tomahawks, and other survival gear. The past vs. future dynamic also comes into play through the design of bushcraft tools. For instance, the design of Kershaw’s new tomahawks is streamlined and simple, employing practical materials to create tools to be used by urbanites who need a reliable household tool or might go camping on the weekends.
While big bushcraft tools are popular, so are pocket tools. 2013 was arguably the year that everyday carry (EDC) culture really hit mainstream. While an EDC used to refer to the knives or firearms carried on a daily basis, the term now encompasses a general kit. A barebones EDC typically consists of a knife, multitool, flashlight, and a writing tool. This means that tactical gear is now being sought by average consumers, many of whom don’t necessarily need heavy-duty gear that can withstand the elements, but who enjoy the style and function of tactical items. Now there’s a market for affordable but high quality items, and emphasis is placed on design. This is a niche all it’s own and worth exploring.
It’s no secret that gear companies are trying to appeal more to women (really, anyone outside of the standard groups of outdoor enthusiasts), as seen through new items intended for urban EDCers. The popularity of urban survivalism, thanks largely in part to popular culture, has also drawn more people to the industry.
From a business perspective, it’s smart to have a target audience, but it’s also smart to know when to expand and seek out new customers. It’s no surprise that images of women and children appear frequently on the showroom floor, integrated into marketing campaigns and exhibitor displays. I speak as a woman involved in this industry, but I also spoke with several long-time SHOT Show attendees who were pleased to see a new generation of gear enthusiasts acknowledged by companies.
There’s also a panel discussion set for Wednesday, featuring men and women in the hunting and outdoor industries, about how gear companies can better marketed to women. In any case, it’s heartening to see that hunting, shooting, and outdoor recreation continues to become more inclusive.