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Cleaning up with cleaning gear; Don't let low MSRPs fool you - there's gold in cleaning-gear sales!

The sale of a $9.95 cleaning kit may not pay the rent, but multiply those seemingly insignificant margins by 50 or 100 - or more --- and suddenly you're covering the utility bills for the month.

In many gun shops, firearm cleaning and maintenance products are stocked reluctantly, with low expectations. But with careful selection, proper display placement and, most important, weaving gun cleaning and maintenance into every firearm and ammunition transaction, you'll see every shooting-sports customer as a potential "upgrade" or "resupply" buyer.

Shooting Industry spoke with four widely separated dealers who make cleaning-gear sales a successful bread-and-butter part of their business.

Selling A System, Not Just A Product

Doug VanderWoude, co-owner of Silver Bullet Firearms, Range & Training Center in Wyoming, Mich., believes the best way to create satisfied customers and generate return sales is to "never offer any bad choices."

"We only carry top-of-the-line quality and beyond that, we'll even bundle it for them into a neat, convenient package," he said.


What are VanderWoude's best-selling cleaning supplies?

"In chemicals - solvents, lubricants, preservatives and grease - TetraGun's fluoropolymer-based products are the finest available," VanderWoude said. "We never have complaints about their performance, and we use TetraGun on our own guns, including hard-used range guns. Pro-Shot makes excellent rods, jags and brushes. These two make up the core of our Silver Bullet Ultimate Handgun Cleaning Kit."

In the kit, VanderWoude includes a set of TetraGun chemicals, Pro-Shot hardware for the popular handgun calibers, patches and a silicon cloth bearing the Silver Bullet logo and business information. He puts it all in a Plano pistol case for customers.

"The kit sells for $49.98," VanderWoude said. "Our customers really appreciate having quality products bundled like that, and we're happy with the 35-percent margin. It's an easy sale."

Additionally, with every firearm purchase, VanderWoude and his staff go over operation, safety features, disassembly, cleaning and maintenance with the customer.

"For example, we'll point out a place where a small amount of quality gun grease is needed - something that won't break down with heat and hard use," VanderWoude said. "The customer asks if we carry what he needs, and often, we wind up selling the entire kit. You've taken a dozen individual components and bundled them into one add-on sale that takes about a minute. It's good for the customer and good for our business."

In addition to TetraGun and Pro-Shot, VanderWoude carries Hoppe's, Sweets, Shooter's Choice, Break-Free, Birchwood Casey and Butch's Bore Shine.

One-Stop Shopping At Green Top

"Here at Green Top," said co-manager Barry Hopkins, "We carry as broad and deep an array of products as we can fit under our roof, assuring our customers that 'Green Top's got everything.'' We really try to make Green Top a one-stop shop, and it shows in our lineup of cleaning and maintenance products."

Located in Glen Allen, Va., just north of Richmond and close to two major interstates, Green Top Sporting Goods draws customers from the entire region - customers who buy a lot of cleaning gear.

Hopkins capitalizes on this by displaying all of Green Top's gun-maintenance products directly facing the gun counters, with all of the best-known makers' names clearly visible.

"We make it easy for customers to find their favorites and make their selections," Hopkins said. "Hoppe's, Birchwood Casey and G96 Gun Oil all have great name recognition. Many of our bench-rest shooters insist on J. Dewey products for their precision, and Pro-Shot products have rapidly developed a very loyal following."

Hopkins says that when taken individually, the prices of cleaning products aren't very high.

"But developing a reputation for having everything a customer might want brings in volume, and the margins are good. That makes cleaning gear a solid, integral part of our business," Hopkins said.


Seeing Is Believing

"At least half of our available display space is devoted to cleaning and maintenance products," said Peter Weiss, manager of SPA-Shooters Depot in Tampa, Fla. "So, it's a very significant chunk of our business. We carry many lines of cleaning products, but our number-one best seller is the Cleenbore SACS (Small Arms Cleaning System)."


The SACS system uses unique polymer cleaning and oiling wads, which are "shot" down a firearm's bore from the breech, propelled by compressed gas from a CO2 cartridge. Adaptors and appropriately sized wads are available to fit virtually any caliber firearm. Chemicals packaged with SACS are KG Industries' carbon remover, barrel polish, solvent and degreaser, and Militec-1 preservative lubricant.

"We keep a kit out and handy to demonstrate SACS to customers and about 90 percent of those who see it used, buy it. Now that's impressive," Weiss said.

Shooters Depot routinely challenges customers to bring in their "cleaned" guns, which are then "re-cleaned" with the SACS system.

"They can't believe how much crud, fouling and dirt the SACS system flushes out of their 'clean' barrels. But seeing is believing, and they buy it almost every time, on the spot. It really makes gun cleaning much faster and more effective - even fun! Just take the time to demonstrate it, and SACS will sell itself," Weiss advised.

Features Fuel The Sale

With 20 years of shooting industry sales and marketing experience, Mike Etienne, the buyer for Turner's Outdoorsman's 13 California stores, knows what sells.

"We've found that cleaning kits from Otis Technology sell great to shooters of all income levels," Etienne said.

All Etienne has to do is explain the benefits of Otis' features.

"It's a system that cleans from breech to muzzle and keeps debris and fouling out of the firearm's action, which is especially valuable if it's a lever action, semiauto or pump. Patches that are pulled through the gun's bore, rather than pushed, form a tighter seal, increasing cleaning efficiency tremendously. Coated Memory-Flex rods won't scratch the bore, and the kits themselves are so compact they can fit in a cargo pocket or be dropped into a pack or range bag," Etienne said.

Etienne prides himself on having an exceptionally knowledgeable and well-trained sales staff, which makes all the difference.

"With every gun or ammunition sale, they're inquiring about the customer's needs for vision and hearing protection, security and, of course, cleaning and maintenance. There are lots of excellent individual products that sell well --- Hoppe's BoreSnake is one - but when it comes to fully stocked, do-it-all kits, Otis is superior," Etienne said.


Cleaning Up - The Wrap-Up

Quality counts - Your expert recommendations to customers carry weight. Don't offer what you wouldn't demand for yourself.

Bundling for bucks - Putting the right components together gives you the opportunity to make several smaller sales in one transaction.

Maximize brand loyalty - Make sure the product names your customers see in ads and read about in articles are prominently displayed.

Seeing is believing - Demonstrating an effective cleaning system can virtually assure a sale.

Know the benefits - Be able to explain the features smoothly to your customers.

And finally, create opportunities to talk about cleaning and maintenance, because every shooting sports customer needs what you've got - and you've got that utility bill to pay, right?


Beretta U.S.A. 254
Birchwood Casey 255
Blue Wonder 256
Break-Free Inc. 257
Browning 258
B-Square 259
Chem-Pak Inc. 260
Cleenbore 261
Corrosion Technologies 262
Eezox Inc. 263
Flitz International Ltd. 264
G96 265
Gun Butter 266
Gunslick 267
Hoppe's 268
Iosso Products 269
J. Dewey Mfg. 270
KG Industries 271
KleenBore Inc. 272
L&R Ultrasonics 273
Lyman Products 274
Masters Gun Care 275
Militec 276
Mil-Comm Products 277
Otis Technology Inc. 278
Outers 279
Pachmayr 280
Plano Molding 281
Prolix Lubricants 282
Pro-Shot Products 283
Quake Industries 284
Remington Arms 285
Sentry Solutions 286
SharpShoot-R Precision 287
Shooter's Choice 288
Sinclair International 289
SLiP2000 290
Tetra Gun Care 291
Thompson/Center Arms 292
Tipton Gun Cleaning Supplies 293
USP Bore Paste 294
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Comment:Cleaning up with cleaning gear; Don't let low MSRPs fool you - there's gold in cleaning-gear sales!
Author:Morrison, John
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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