Sporting a good industry
The National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers (NASGW) is a trade association that provides information and promotion to the sporting goods industry. They represent all aspects of the sector, and their membership is comprised of wholesalers, manufacturers, and independent sales reps – both national and international – all of whom are primarily involved with outdoor sporting equipment and accessories.
The NASGW was founded in 1953 and incorporated in 1954. The association was originally known as the Sporting Goods Jobbers Association, a credit recording service. In 1962, the name changed and shortly after manufacturers and representatives became associate members. They added industry media and service providers to their membership base two years ago.
“We’re a relatively small industry, primarily covering the outdoor sport segments,” says President Maurice Desmarais.
Desmarais joined the association in May 2010. He’s worked with 12 associations over the last 35 years. He worked previously for Smith Bucklin – a management organization servicing 230 non-profit trade associations and professional societies. “This is kind of a new twist for me – going to a stand-alone group, rather than a multiple management company,” he says.
He was drawn to the association for its niche market and loyal membership. The NASGW was financially sound and secured for the future, he says. “It was just a great fit for me. I wanted to get back to dealing with a single organization. With this, I could focus on a strategic plan for them and concentrating more on their issues and programs.”
NASGW represents 430 corporate members. They provide for more than 4,000 employees who supply sales, service and delivery service in the U.S., Canada and internationally. Wholesales members represent sales of more than $3.2 billion annually of a variety of sporting goods equipment and accessories.
The association also represents more than 1,000 experienced and knowledgeable salespeople who regularly call thousands of retail outlets selling sporting goods to the consumer. The industry as a whole accounts for nearly four million square feet of warehouse space throughout the U.S. and Canada, and association wholesaler members have a capital investment inventory of over $500-million.
Most of the NASGW member base consists of family-owned businesses, some going back generations. The association often hears how much “fun” it is to work for one of their member firms. This is also an industry that requires a lot of hands-on instruction and display, as potential buyers want to see, try and understand the product prior to purchase.
“Service is personal. It’s not just a job. It’s part of their everyday lifestyle. What they do from Monday to Friday is also their hobby and sport on the weekends,” Desmarais says.
There are several objectives of NASGW, including promoting the common interest of the sporting goods industry, encouraging the highest standards of merchandising practices, maintaining an active liaison with the trade associations of all other segments of the industry, collecting and distributing information as to all matters or things pertaining to sporting goods wholesalers, and conducting and participating in sporting goods shows and exhibitions.
The most valuable service they provide is their annual NASGW Annual Meeting/Expo. This event features new products and services introduced in the industry, while providing educational, marketing and communications opportunities for the hunting and shooting sports wholesaler, manufacturer and sales professional.
“Ours is like the introduction of what’s going to happen in 2013,” Desmarais says. “It’s a very intense event, with about 1,500 attendees and 400 exhibitors. It’s a major networking and educational event providing updates on what is happening in the industry.”
Also taking place at the expo beforehand is an annual leadership awards reception and dinner that draws a lot of competition from member firms for the accolades. The industry is heavily centered on recognition because of the competitive nature of sports. The NASGW annually recognizes manufacturers with Manufacturer of the Year Awards, and in 2005 initiated a special industry leadership award as well.
The criteria for the awards are based on areas of the manufacturer’s performance, which enable the wholesaler to provide efficient and effective service in the marketplace. “I can almost guarantee a member who has gotten an award has it sitting in their display case when you walk through the front door or the reception area,” Desmarais says. “Rewarding employees for their work is something companies and the individuals take great pride in.”
One of the challenges the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers faces is regulation. The sporting industry deals with compliance in every state.
They spend a great deal of time ensuring all legislations are met, which are inspected regularly by federal agencies. Everything necessary is done to encourage a safe and responsible use of their products and services to the general public. “It is a significant portion of the industry’s paperwork, if you will,” he says.
In facing this challenge, NASGW has achieved tremendous success. Recently, they’ve been informed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that their members are exemplary in compliance and co-operation with the regulations.
The future for the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers – and the industry they represent – is a bright one. The last four or five years have seen steady growth in sales and new membership. The industry has been making significant upgrades, retooling and investment in modernizing its plants, operations and capacity. Quality control is extremely important with extensive testing of its products.
The recent Olympic wins by the U.S. shooting team and increased media coverage during the Olympic Games has created a growing interest and desire by young and old alike to participate in the sport. “The U.S. Olympic shooting team received many medals this year, which provides a lot more coverage of the sport,” Desmarais says.
Archery is also gaining interest, particularly among women – a fact that can be attributed, at least partly, to The Hunger Games novels. A lot of the member companies are devoting significant resources to helping schools, colleges and youth groups in developing archery programs. “We’re pleased with the results indicating a solid industry full of potential going forward,” he says.