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Shooter's den: a success story in New Mexico.

SHOOTER'S DEN

The name Shooter's Den is an apt itle for the thriving enterprise started three and a half years ago by the present owner, Noble Sinclair. Many supplies for the shooting enthusiast are available within the pleasant surroundings of either of their two stores, both of which carry extensive rifle, pistol and archery selection. Earning his living since age nineteen through the firearms retail industry, Noble has amassed a great deal of knowledge about the business, and his expertise shows in the operation of both stores in the highly competitive Albuquerque market.

In the time since Shooter's Den opened, eight new gun stores have appeared in the city, many which no longer exist. From around two firearms outlets in the entire city ten years ago, there are now thirty or so dealing in such varied specialties as antiques, combar arms, black powder, archery and general gun stores. There is even a manufacturer of reloads, Sandia Cartridge, located in the city. Shooter's Den regularly purchases ammunition from this local supplier. Within walking distance of the San Mateo store are four other places to buy guns and three for archery equipment. A population of around 2,800 archers in the county supports this high concentration of businesses geared toward that and other shootings sports. A little over a hundred bowhunters maintain a shooting range and park for their members' use. Other indoor archery ranges, including a small one in the San Mateo store, provide places to test bows and accessories. Although there are no indoor firearms ranges operating, Shooting Range Park outside of Albuquerque is open to the public.

The many hunting opportunities in the state make sales of hunting oriented material very seasonal. Before the response time for bowhunt drawings was shortened, June, July and August were the greatest selling period, according to Noble Sinclair. Now, three months of sales has been compressed into one month, making August one of the busiest times of the year for both stores.

The increase in number of customers causes few problems for Noble and his two employees, who bowhunt themselves and have been doing so for some time. As advice to new entrants to the sport of archery, he says emphatically, "The more things on a bow, the more things that can go wrong." While he does not recommend additions such as overdraws, peep sights and pins for the beginner, many more experienced archers purchase the fairly advanced equipment and obtain good results. Any adjustment or modification necessary on a bow is made by either store, along with arrow fletching and length setting. Shooter's Den also manufactures its own bow strings.

Of local bowhunters, the owner of Shooter's Den observes, "the average archer buys a lot of equipment," including the wide range of bows offered by the stores. Some brands carried are: PSE, High Country, Hoyt, 0-9 Eagle, and Pearson. At the Juan Tabo store, Shooter's Den is a Pearson dealer, and that brand is the biggest seller among bows. Mr. Sinclair finds that a good rapport with sales representatives is another reason one brand or line of merchandise may outsell another.

In terms of firearms, pistols are by far the most constant selling item, bringing in at least 40% of sales. Instead of seasonal hunting equipment, handguns sell briskly all year round. On one memorable day this yea, over six thousand dollars was grossed from pistols. As sales for a particular brand go, reliable Glock automatics continue to have a high demand among consumers. All three employees carry the polymer guns for protection. In fact, a bank robber and murder suspect came in to purchase a new barrel for his Glock, since he claimed the old one had worn out. The manufacturer assured Noble that Glock barrels do not wear out, and to send it in for a replacement if there was some other problem. The criminal refused to turn in his gun used in several holdups and authorities were notified. As he awaits trial, he can dwell on how not to go up against gunstore owners much smarter than himself.

Hunting rifles are sold in the greatest amount just before season begins, unlike paramilitary rifles which sell year round. Not too many high dollar sporting arms are sold, while Rugers and Browning A-bolts seem to be in biggest demand for hunters. Recreational shooting weapons', as Mr. Sinclair calls AK-47s, UZIs and similar arms have been in big demand ever since the serious national talk of a ban on these weapons began. The owner of Shooter's Den states the benefit to firearms retailers from sales of these guns as follows: "You sell a guy a .30-06 for hunting season, you sell the guy a box of ammo, and see him next year for another box. If you sell him a Galil or AR-15, he's buying ammo all year round." The proposed gun bans only drove up prices, hurting consumers the most.

Ammunition sold at the store is purchased around the beginning of the year, with spring being the point when much of the handgun ammo is sold. Reloads account for a fairly large portion of sales, along with low cost generic lines. Their prices for 9mm, .45 and .223 are very competitive with other retailers in the city.

Arrow prices, from the consumer's standpoint, are some of the lowest in the nation due in part to the large number of archers. A dozen Gamegetter II[sup.TM] arrows, for instance, sell for $35.95 at Shooter's Den. The new line of carbon arrows coming out have the potential of becoming good sellers because of greater penetration allowed by thinner shafts and stronger material.

Bow work is done by one of the three workers, but the space needed for a gunsmith is too great to consider an in-store 'smith at this time. Between the two stores, over 180 videos are for rent, with instructional bowhunting videos going out the most.

Within a two month period, Shooter's Den made two moves. Each location is a new one and each a vast improvement over the small San Mateo store. This expansion took a lot of resources, not only in moving to a larger 2000 square foot San Mateo store, but also with set-up costs running about $20,000 for the 1200 square foot Juan Tabo store. A major consideration in designing a new gun store in the city of Albuquerque is security. Retailers without iron bars and an alarm system are broken into about every six months. Along with the above two precautions, all guns at both stores the locked in a safe overnight to prevent theft. Neither outlet has be robbed since opening.

Shooter's Den continues to have difficulties in advertising to archers. One competitor has found a solution by using direct mail to communicate with the city's bowhunters. On the other hand, gun buyers are fairly easy to reach through newspaper ads most Albuquerque stores run around the same time each week. Some time ago, the stores would see who could get the lowest price on Ruger and Browning rifles before hunting season and bid down to almost the break even level. Another gimmick now abandoned is the department store practice of including a free scope or other accessory on a rifle.

Noble Sinclair offers this advice to anyone planning on entering the firearms retail industry: "Sell what you know about, sprecialize in what you have knowledge of." as a buyer for Gardenswartz Sports in Albuquerque before going it on his own, he regularly attended the SHOT Show and feels such events are extremely important for a prospective gun store owner. Placing orders early, when wholesale prices are the lowest, is recommended and almost a must for the beginner on a small budget.

For the customer who comes into either the store on 2729 San Mateo or 1560-G Juan Tabo, a warm smile and ready ear awaits them. The friendly atmosphere not only makes work easier, it also helps draw business from other outlets less appreciative of a shooters' interests.
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Title Annotation:firearms and archery retailing
Author:Brown, Mike
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:1337
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