Written By Vice-President of Sales Matt Reams
I have not heard the attendance numbers from the 2014 NRA show in Indianapolis yet, but they were expecting upwards of 70,000 attendees. From the crowds we experienced at the Sierra booth, I am not sure that expectation was not met.
The attendees were positive and upbeat and mostly had the same question – “When can we expect more product?” We spent a lot of the show explaining what has been happening the last 18 months and what we are doing about it. I am sure other exhibitors were doing the same.
The market has continued to move back towards “normal” levels, although the new “normal” is probably higher than the normal of 2011. For Sierra at least, the days of fax and email orders coming in at 700%-800% normal levels are over and the war on the backlog is what we focus on every day. As of this writing, we have reduced the backlog for 13 weeks straight. With new machinery still being brought online and new employees being trained to run it, we expect this to continue and accelerate as the year continues.
The next component after equipment and manpower is time. Understandably this is the one that causes us and our customers the most grief and irritation. Our customers have a need and want product today. There is little worse than your customers wanting what you make and not being able to provide it fast enough.
Our top sellers are getting closer to being caught up. This allows us to devote presses to running next tier products like 6mm, 6.5mm, 7mm, etc. which have been neglected while we concentrated on the highest backordered items. This will continue as we trickle down though the most backordered items down to the least backordered items.
Unfortunately that means the slower sellers like 30-30 bullets, handgun bullets, 8mm, 303, etc. are still going to be many months out. How far will depend on current demand, but getting all our products back in stock in 2014 is not something we expect to happen. Changing a press from one bullet to another (a “changeover”) is the costliest part of production. The more we change over the less we produce. As we move to smaller and smaller runs, the changeovers will become more frequent and erode our efficiency. We will combat that as best we can by running as many like calibers as we can to reduce the scale of the changeover (changeovers within the same caliber are easier than changing calibers), but the amount of bullets we produce will be hampered nonetheless.
This will be offset to some degree with the new equipment being brought in as it is ready, but even this will not be enough to clear the backlog entirely in 2014. We do expect our most popular bullets to have better availability and maybe even see some inventory building by our distributors on these items.
One thing is for certain, we will not slow down until the backlog is cleared and our shelves and our distributor’s shelves are again stocked to the levels we all enjoyed in early 2012. We are sorry for all the shortages and thank you all for your patience.