The banners have come down, the vendors have boxed up their products, the booth babes have returned to their tanning beds and the industry scribes have all scuttled back to their respective media outlets. That means in the coming weeks American outdoors consumer will be bombarded with sneak peeks and mini-reviews of all the latest, greatest, new and improved products from the 2009 SHOT show.

The big question is, is anybody willing to buy it? Or, for that matter, will anybody be able to buy it?

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones) — Stung by weak demand and falling prices, U.S. retail sales plunged a seasonally adjusted 2.7% in December from November, the Commerce Department estimated Wednesday. Excluding a 0.7% decline in auto sales, retail sales recorded their biggest drop since record-keeping began in the early 1990s, falling 3.1%.

Reading all the bad news, it’s difficult to reconcile my core belief that hunting by its very nature should possess a simple Zen-like aesthetic with the reality that much of its future is tied to the same quickly-collapsing endless-growth consumer model that’s now killing every other retail sector.

It’s a quandary: Going forward hunting, fishing and the shooting sports desperately need to remain strong and viable industries. Economic strength is political strength and we need all the political strength we can muster. On the other hand, everyone’s broke and even a blind man can see there are a lot of businesses out there hawking products no one really needs. When you base your business model on a level of discretionary income that now occupies the past tense, pain ensues. And if 2008 was painful, 2009 looks like it’s going to be major surgery without anesthetic.

Who knows how it’s going to turn out? All we can do is base financial choices on what we believe in. I can do without Blu-ray players, Ipods, or plasma TVs. Those are casual lifestyle choices. But hunting, fishing and being outdoors is a necessary way of life. That may not help outdoor retailers much, but at least it’s something.