Yesterday marked the 34th New Product Showcase in North American fishing trade show history. NPS debuted at the 1986 AFTMA Super Outdoor Market in Dallas … and FTR was there.
Back then it wasn’t ICAST (International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades). Back then it was AFTMA — the American Fishing Tackle Manufacturers Association. Back then Ronald Reagan was president and gas was 86 cents per gallon. It seemed like a lot of money then, and it probably was. FTR was just getting started, but we were at AFTMA, right there in the middle of the fishing industry action, and we sponsored the New Product Showcase.
Twenty-four years ago, the New Product Showcase Best of Show awards were presented for the first time … and FTR was there.
That was 1995, and the Best of Show awards were a big deal, whether manufacturers wanted to admit it or not. Sure, they sometimes still play it cool, but for a manufacturer with a talented marketing staff, the Best of Show awards are important — another weapon in the arsenal to sell product.
Last night, the New Product Showcase took another step forward in our industry. NPS has been growing for these 30-plus years, and now it’s bigger than ever. In all, there are now 29 different categories represented in the showcase.
New for 2019 are awards for ice fishing and even coolers. If you think that’s not important, you’re wrong. This year will be the first time in the lengthy history of the Best of Show awards that an ice fishing product has been honored. In the past, they’ve been slighted, largely because ICAST — and AFTMA before it — have been mostly Southern events where the bulk of attendees only see ice in their drinks, never on their lakes.
That Southern bias has meant that a lot of great ice fishing products have been ignored, and that’s a shame. This year, and moving forward, they’ll get their due, and that’s great because ice fishing is an important part of our industry.
Coolers, too. Could anyone have foreseen the growth and trajectory of the cooler industry just seven or eight years ago? We’ve gone from purchasing whatever $20 box fit in the space we had available for it, to spending hundreds of dollars for a status symbol that will also keep Dr. Pepper cold. Amazing!
Through all this time and through all these changes, FTR has been there and been a part of it. I’m proud and excited to be a part of that FTR history and thrilled to see how far the New Product Showcase has come.
Kudos to ASA Trade Show Director and Vice President Blake Swango and his talented staff. Hats off to Mike Bailey, who organizes and runs NPS with a small, dedicated and impressive crew. Companies that are excited about their new products should be thrilled to put them in the hands of these folks.