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Reed Bans Modern Tactical Rifles at Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show; Deals with Industry Backlash

Danica Tormohlen
, Editor-at-Large
January 23, 2013
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Harrisburg, PA – Following last week’s announcement that exhibitors will not be permitted to show or sell modern tactical rifles at the upcoming Eastern Sports & Outdoor Show (ESS), Reed Exhibitions has been the target of an intense social media campaign asking attendees to boycott the event and exhibitors to withdraw their support. ESS, scheduled for February 2-10 at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg, PA, attracts outdoor sports enthusiasts from across the region and featured 1,200 exhibitors in 2012.

According to a statement posted on Tuesday, January 15 on the show’s web site: “As a hunting-focused event, we welcome exhibitors who wish to showcase products and firearms that serve the traditional needs of the sport. Clearly, we strongly support the Second Amendment. However, this year we have made the decision not to include certain products, that in the current climate, may attract negative attention that would distract from the strong focus on hunting and fishing at this family-oriented event and possibly disrupt the broader positive experience of our guests.”

As of this morning, more than 1,900 comments have been posted on the show’s Facebook page in response to the announcement. A majority are opposed to the ban, and many call for a boycott of the show, which was launched in 1955. Reed is not conducting any interviews at this time, according to Amy Fisher, Reed’s vice president, strategic marketing.

On Saturday, January 19, Cabela’s announced it would longer sponsor the event. "After careful consideration regarding Cabela's business practices and the feelings of our customers, Cabela's will, unfortunately, not have a presence at the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show," according to a post on the company’s Facebook page. There were more than 3,500 comments posted in response to the announcement.

On Tuesday, January 22, MyNortheastOutdoors.com launched a web page listing exhibitors who have pulled out of the show. According to the site, 233 exhibitors, as well as 37 speakers and celebrities, have pulled out of the event as of 12 p.m. EST today. (Trade Show Executive has not been able to verify the accuracy of this list.) In addition, the site will be providing any vendor who has pulled out of the show a free centrally located marketplace to sell their items, products and services during a virtual event that will launch on February 2.

Also announced yesterday, the National Rifle Association (NRA) decided to withdraw from the event. “Due to Reed Exhibitions' refusal to reconsider their decision to ban modern sporting rifles from the Eastern Sports Show in Harrisburg, PA, the National Rifle Association has decided to withdraw from the show,” according to an NRA press release. “We had called on Reed Exhibitions to reconsider their decision; unfortunately they have steadfastly refused to do so. As a result, the NRA will not be participating in the upcoming show in Harrisburg or in any other shows hosted by Reed Exhibitions that maintain this policy. We are disappointed that Reed Exhibitions has ignored the concerns expressed by attendees, the outdoor industry and the NRA in not reconsidering their position to ban the display of modern sporting rifles.”

In an ironic twist for the story, the Shooting Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, which is owned by Reed and sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), set attendance records last week at the Sands Expo & Convention Center in Las Vegas. The 35th annual event, which was held January 15-18, attracted 62,371 attendees and more than 1,600 exhibitors filled booth space covering 630,000 nsf.

“The National Shooting Sports Foundation strongly disagrees with the decision of the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show’s management to disallow the display and sale of modern sporting rifles at its 2013 exhibition,” according to a statement by the association. “In our discussions with Reed Exhibitions, we have made this very clear.”

Reach Amy at (203)n 840-5374 or afischer@reedexpo.com; Chris Dolnack, senior vice president & CMO, NSSF, at (203) 426-1320 or cdolnack@nssf.org

Trade Show Executive will provide continuing coverage on this subject including how show managers deal with controversy in other industries, other situations.

Please send your comments to Danica at dtormohlen@tradeshowexecutive.com

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