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Cleaning kits can be an easy sell.


If there's one accessory item that every gun shop should stock it's gun cleaning kits. There are few products that prove themselves so simple to cross-market, and yet carry such high profit margins.

Virtually every customer who buys a new or used gun is a likely candidate for a cleaning kit to go with it. As Paul Judd, president of Kleen-Bore notes, "If you sell a gun, you should sell a new kit with it. Or, if it's a good customer, and you've made a nice mark-up on the gun sale, give him the kit. It creates a lot of good will."

Kits, according to Outers' John Wiggert, allow you to offer your customer a complete package for maintaining firearms, in a resealable and reusable container. "This is especially important," he notes, "for the shooter living in an apartment, or one with limited space. All his cleaning stuff can be easily stored under a bed, or on a closet shelf."

The fact is, too many dealers think kits are only for beginners. Yet, experienced shooters are potential customers too. "But the dealer has to ask," Wiggert stresses, "because the consumer buying a gun often overlooks cleaning stuff. So ask him if he needs a caliber specific cleaning kit to go with it."

"Cleaning kit" can mean a number of different things. Generally speaking, the term applies to a box containing a breakdown rod of brass, aluminum, or steel, patches, solvent, oil, and the hardware (brushes, slotted tips, etc.) needed.

These kinds come in "universal" or "gun type" or "caliber specific" versions. Each has its place and the dealer should stock all three types to serve his customers' needs.

"Universal" kits usually contain everything except caliber specific hardware. You can sell a shooter one of these universal kits, then sell the brushes and jags for his specific calibers separately. That way, he doesn't have to buy a whole new rod, solvents and lubricants, for each gun he owns. "Naturally," notes Scott Lee, marketing manager for Ox-Yoke Products, "you have to stock the individual items as well as the kits."

Perhaps the ultimate in universal kits is Rig's new "Select-A-Kit". Jim Ford, Rig's national sales manager, explains how it works: "Select-A-Kit starts with the Athena box, a heavy plastic box with a durable latch and hinge system. The shooter adds his own selection of rods, rod-end accessories, tools, cleaners, lubricants and wipers. All of those are displayed, along with the boxes, in a handy floor model display."

"Gun type" kits are similar to the universal kits, except they contain a cross section of hardware necessary for related firearms. For instance, Kleen-Bore's "all caliber" kit contains hardware for guns chambered in .22, .30, and .45 calibers. Rig's handgun cleaning kit is complete for .22, .38, and .45 calibers.

Finally, there are caliber and gauge specific kits. These contain everything needed to clean a specific caliber gun or shotgun gauge. Unlike the universal kits, these contain tips and brushes of appropriate size.

Hoppe's has, perhaps, the broadest selection of these kits, with Outers running a pretty close second. Outers, by the way, now offers its kits in a clear plastic box. The shooter can finally see exactly what he has on hand, or needs to replace.

Ox-Yoke forgoes hard boxes. Instead, it packages its kits in drawstring bags, with a choice of either its patented four-way patches, or regular patches in poly or cotton.

Most cleaning supply companies now offer presentation kits. Precision Sports started this trend with its imported Parker-Hale line. "Even though these kits are at the high end of the price scale," says marketing VP Greg Pogson, "we sell plenty. Many dealers are at first surprised by this, that high priced equipment sells well. But it's not price sensitive, and it is quite profitable to the dealer."

Among such offerings now, in addition to the Parker-Hale versions, are Hoppe's deluxe wooden presentation kit; Rig's classic handgun cleaning kit; and Kleen-Bore's Grand American shotgun and Armorer rifle/handgun cleaning sets. All of these come in fitted hardwood boxes, with the with all the rods, tips, and tools, as well as consumables, contained in their own compartments.

Keep these presentation kits in mind, especially around Christmas and Father's Day. "Lots of women by kits as presents for their husbands and children," notes Outer's John Wiggert. "She'll rarely buy him a gun, not knowing much about them. But she will buy a kit for a gun he already owns."

Traditionally, a shooter would start with these kits, then add additional cleaning and maintenance products one at a time. He still can do that. But now there are kits which package these products together.

For instance, Birchwood Casey offers its gun maintenance kit, containing a can of bore solvent, another of Sheath rust preventative, an aerosol of Gun Scrubber, a silicone cloth, and ten individual Sheath wipes. There are no tools or cleaning patches included in this kit.

Rusty Duck has a similar "kit" of its products, consisting of a large can of Gun Cleaner Solvent, and smaller cans of Protective Lubricant and Polymer All Purpose Grease. All three are aerosols. A handy towel sized wiping cloth is included in the box.

Hoppe's offers its gun cleaning pack, a similar kit containing No. 9 bore solvent, lubricating oil, gun grease, and a supply of cleaning patches.

Rig puts up its universal grease, bore cleaner, gun oil, degreaser, lead wipe, bronze bristle brush, and Rig Rag in a polypropylene box with top carrying handle, sort of like a small tackle box.

Basically, these kits pre-package the additional chemicals a shooter will need, and supplement them with other products.

Carrying this idea even further, Ox-Yoke has just introduced its Accu-Pac, consisting of accuracy restorer, Best Dam Solvent, and Best Dam Gun Oil. What makes the difference is the unique guarantee it carries. If any gun--new or used--cleaned with this kit does not show an improvement in accuracy, Ox-Yoke will buy the user a new firearm. "We haven't bought a new gun yet," Scott Lee notes wryly.

Last, but perhaps most important from a sales point of view, are the field cleaning kits. More and more shooters and hunters have learned that it makes sense to carry cleaning gear with them. Savvy retailers help them do that with these field and emergency cleaning kits.

Most of these are based on a flexible rod, so the package can be kept small. Alternatively, they use multi-piece rods that screw together. At least one company, Mountain View Sports, uses clear plastic tubing. Tagged an "emergency gun cleaning kit" it contains the tubing, with "T" fitting pull and slotted tip already attached to the tubing, patches, and a 1/2 oz. bottle of your choice of lubricants. Either Country Cover's Crouse's Marking Lubricants in pine, cedar, or acorn scent or Acculube II's fine lubricant/cleaner are included at the discretion of the shooter. Carl Beede of Mountain View Sports says "why go into the field after you've made an effort to get the human smell off yourself when your gun still smells of conventional lubricants and solvents". Everything is packaged in a clear-plastic zipper bag.

The granddaddy field cleaning kit is the Army type, which has everything needed in a compartmented belt pouch. The civilian version if this kit is offered in three versions by Kleen-Bore: the Universal Field Cleaning Kit, containing everything except brushes; the All-Caliber Field Cleaning Kit, with brushes for .22, .30. and .44 caliber rifles, including a pistol cleaning adaptor; the M-16/AR-15/Mini-14/5.56mm Field Cleaning Kit, with accessories for those rifles. The nylon field pouch is available empty as well.

Both Outers and Hoppe's offer small field cleaning kits that serve to clear plugged bores and perform limited cleaning tasks. Hoppe's is based on a seven piece screw-together rod with tips. Outers' uses a flexible plastic-coated coil rod along with brushes, patches, a tip, a cloth and lubricants.

The most recent, and perhaps most extensive, field cleaning kit is the Otis Whole Kit And Caboodle[R], which contains everything except the bore brushes. Included is a flexible rod; brass accessories including obstruction removers, brush adaptors, slotted tips and "T" handle; all-caliber patches; bore solvent; and patch savers for use with shotguns. Originally packaged in a metal tin the size of a shoe polish can, it's now available in a zippered Cordura[R] pouch with molded inserts. With one of these kits, a shooter can clean anything from .22 caliber rifles to 10 gauge shotguns.

What about display of cleaning kits? Manufacturers are almost unanimous that all gun cleaning materials should be displayed in a central area. Cleaning gear is essentially an impulse buy. "Nobody goes to the gun shop to buy cleaning patches," stresses Outers' John Wiggert. "It's very important to have a high visibility display, so the shooter can see the products and remember he needs to replace, say, bore solvent." Paul Judd at Kleen-Bore, couldn't agree more. "I highly recommend a central area," he says, "with high visibility in a heavy traffic area. These are largely impulse buys."

Most manufacturers offer displays for just this purpose. Basically floor model POPs (point of purchase displays), they hold both kits and individual cleaning and maintenance items in a central area.

The long and the short of it is that cleaning kits make good sense. With a minimum 40% mark-up (and as much as 67% on some), there's a good profitability margin for the dealer who knows how to promote and move them. Central display and a concerted cross-marketing effort are the ways to do that.

PHOTO : Above, Parker-Hale has a fine selection of presentation accessories included in a mahogany

PHOTO : fitted case. Right, Ox-Yoke's drawstring Kit Bag holds all your cleaning needs. Below,

PHOTO : Hoppe's Gun Cleaning Kit packages everything you'll need in one package.

PHOTO : Birchwood Casey supplies its Gun Maintenance Kit, you add the hardware.

PHOTO : Point of Purchase floor displays provide a selection guaranteed to catch the customer's

PHOTO : eye.

PHOTO : The Emergency Gun Cleaning Kit from Mountain View Sports is available in different sizes

PHOTO : for rifles, pistols and shotguns.

PHOTO : Otis' The Whole Kit and Caboodle[R] uses a soft pack for storage.

PHOTO : Rusty Duck lubricants and solvents are all aerosols.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Publishers' Development Corporation
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:firearms retail trade
Author:Elliott, Barbara; Elliot, Brook
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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