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Create a buzz: transform your long-gun & accessory sales.

Today's long guns cover every aspect of the market, from nostalgic, frontier-day replicas to ultra-modern, high-performance firearms.

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Think "extreme." That's what manufacturers are producing--rifles and shotguns that are beyond the "ho-hum." They're designed to create a buzz, a "must-have" consumer response--all in an effort to capture a larger market share. This high-charged competition is good for gun dealers.

"Long guns are very important to our business," said Bill Carter Sr., CEO and founder of Carter's Country Outdoor Stores in Houston, Texas. "Seventy-five percent of our gun sales are long guns. And a portion of the long guns we sell--hunting rifles--provides great lead-ins to our add-on sales. We need those add-on sales to keep our profit margins up."

More good news for dealers: Manufacturers are flooding the market with a record number of long-gun accessories. Recent introductions also break the "so-what" mold of accessory products, providing added consumer "pull" into gun shops.

Expand Your Long-Gun Sales

To take full advantage of today's "extreme" long-gun offerings, what should dealers inventory? More importantly, what can dealers do to expand their sales--and profits?

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That depends on a gun dealer's market. Are there areas within a dealer's market-reach for target shooting and hunting? Are there active shooting clubs, including cowboy action, within the market area? What long guns are not big sellers in a gun shop? Why? What will it take to create interest in these guns? Such evaluation can increase sales.

"Rimfire rifles appeal to customers who like to plink," said Ken Jorgensen of Sturm, Ruger & Co. "There are some people who hunt small game with rimfire rifles and who use them for varmint control. The ammunition is inexpensive, so it's a great way to have fun and a great way to teach your kids or your neighbors how to shoot."

For the most part, customers who purchase centerfire rifles are hunters, although there are some centerfire target competitions.

"New calibers are introduced every year to entice people to try something new. Plus, there are new versions of firearms that chamber old calibers. There's a lot of introduction of new calibers to keep customers' attention," Jorgensen said.

Hunting also accounts for a large portion of shotgun sales, with new offerings attracting customers devoted to bird, waterfowl, turkey, small game and, in some states, deer hunting. Add to this a generous number of skeet, trap and sporting clays shooters.

"In the Northeast, there are a lot of places you can't use centerfire rifles to hunt. So slug shotguns are important. If there's elk hunting in your area, you're going to carry bigger caliber rifles than if hunters are shooting small deer," Jorgensen said.

Again, what sells depends on the market area, and more importantly, tapping into segments of the market that dealers may not have explored.

"Retailers need to listen to what their customers ask for," Jorgensen said. "Some calibers are more popular in one part of the country than another, and retailers need to take a look at what people are using."

Carter agrees that listening to your customers is the most important thing you can do when deciding your inventory. Knowing your sales history also gives you an edge.

"Fortunately, we have 40-something years of sales history that helps us," Carter said. "We stock the items our customers are really interested in. We're heavy advertisers in the area's largest newspapers. The responses we get to those ads tell us what our customers are interested in."

Shoot For A 50-50 Sale

Once a dealer determines the long guns that will sell in his shop or have the best possibility of opening new markets, it's important to tie in accessory sales.

"We all know that retailers make the most money on accessories," Jorgensen said. "When a person walks in and buys a new gun, that's not the only thing he needs to go out and enjoy it. He needs the package: the rifle or shotgun and all the accessories to go with it."

Long-gun accessories is a product area where dealers need to inventory wide and perhaps deep.

"A lot of times people get enthusiastic about taking a new product out and using it, but if they can't find what they want in your store, they're going to go somewhere else to buy it," Jorgensen said.

In addition to ammunition, there are scopes and rings/bases, laser sights, enhanced sights, slings and swivels, carrying cases, cleaning kits and supplies, targets, range bags, hearing and eye protection, bipods/monopods, shell carriers, cartridge cases, shooting rests, recoil pads, snap caps, choke tubes and synthetic stocks (See Bonus: "The Synthetic Connection.")

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If you're in hunting country, there are game calls, scents, game cameras/timers, camo tape, blinds, treestands, rangefinders, knives, flashlights, radios, decoy bags, packs, gear bags--and more.

Carter values his hunting customers and the accessories they buy.

"The darling we love is the bolt-action, big-game rifle," Carter said. "It needs a scope and mounts, and our labor to put the scope on and sight it in. It needs a sling, swivels, a case, a cleaning kit--the list goes on and on. People tend to outfit themselves fully when they buy a bolt-action rifle, more than they do with any other long gun we sell."

Carter's goal is to sell 50 percent long guns and 50 percent accessories.

"We've been able to do that pretty well over the past 10 years," Carter said. "We offer a lot of services to do that, including repairs and cleaning, and we have public shooting ranges. Plus, we stock a variety of reloading equipment and supplies."

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Create A Big Smile

To succeed in long-gun sales, dealers need to help customers make the most of the guns they're buying--or have bought in the past.

"Pay attention to what's new, and if it makes sense in your marketplace, you need to have it on the shelf," Jorgensen said. "Sometimes, the difference in you making the sale or your competitor making the sale comes down to who has it on the shelf."

Take advantage of seasonal events and opportunities to sell guns and accessories.

"Don't overlook kids getting out of school, when there's time for parents to take them shooting," Jorgensen said. Other occasions, including Father's and Mother's Days, President's Day and Thanksgiving, provide opportunities to increase sales.

Carter targets three seasons for his "free finance sale."

"The biggest one is right before deer season, in September, which catches the early waterfowl and dove seasons, also," Carter said. "We will finance any purchase for 12 months for free. We make it hassle-free. A customer walks in and 15 minutes later he walks out with a big smile, and the purchase is on 12 months at no interest."

There also are national programs dealers can use to attract customers.

"Sponsor a Step Outside program," Jorgensen said. "While it isn't tied directly to any kind of marketing, it will attract a lot of first timers. Get involved with Step Outside or Becoming An Outdoors Woman programs, because those participants represent potential customers."

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The bottom line for dealers: Examine your long-gun sales. Are you maximizing your market? Are you taking advantage of new introductions and business-expanding opportunities? If not, pull your staff together, talk to your sales reps, develop a plan and create a buzz in your long-gun and accessory sales.
LONG-GUN MARKET

Adams & Bennett Barrels 273
ADCO 274
Advanced Technology 275
Anschutz 276
ArmaLite Inc. 277
Austin & Halleck 278
Barrett Firearms 279
Bell and Carlson 281
Benelli USA 282
Beretta USA 283
Birchwood Casey 284
Boyds' Gunstocks 285
Boyt Harness Co. 286
Browning 287
B-Square 288
Butler Creek 289
Caldwell Shooting Supplies 290
Century International Arms 291
Champion 292
Charles Daly 293
Colt's Mfg. Inc. 294
CoreLite Synthetic Stocks 295
CZ USA 296
Dakota Arms Inc. 297
Dan Wesson 298
DoskoSport 299
EMF Co. Inc. 300
Fajen Inc. 302
FNH USA 303
Galco International 304
Gun Slick 305
H & R 1871 306
Harris Engineering 307
Heckler & Koch Inc. 308
Henry Repeating Arms 309
HiViz 310
Hogue Grips 311
H-S Precision Inc. 312
Hunter Co. 313
Ithaca Gun Co. 314
Kel-Tec 315
Kimber Mfg. 316
Kleen-Bore 317
Kolpin 318
Lyman Products Corp. 319
Mag-na-port International 320
Marlin Firearms Co. 321
McMillan Fiberglass Stock 322
Michaels of Oregon 323
Miles Gilbert Stockmaking 324
MTM Molded Products 325
Navy Arms Co. 326
New England Arms Corp. 327
New England Firearms 328
O.F. Mossberg & Sons 329
Outers 330
Pachmayr Ltd. 331
PAST Recoil Protection 332
Remington Arms Co. 333
Rossi 334
Savage Arms 335
Sigarms 336
Speedfeed 337
Springfield Armory 338
Stoney Point Products 339
Sturm, Ruger & Co. 340
Taurus International 341
Thompson Center Arms 342
Traditions Performance Firearm 343
Weatherby Inc. 344
Winchester Firearms 345


RELATED ARTICLE: THE SYNTHETIC CONNECTION

Synthetic stocks are the rage today. They can be found on virtually every type of rifle and shotgun, in colors ranging from deep black to full camo. Their popularity wasn't always so wide-spread, however.

The first commercial use of synthetic stocks for long guns appeared around WW II, according to John French, Michaels of Oregon senior product designer.

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"Savage Stevens pretty much led the charge with the Model 24 .22/.410 combination gun, a side-by-side shotgun and a pump shotgun in their line," French said. "They used a brown-tinged plastic called Tenite with a little black to make it look more wood-like. The stocks were really kind of cool, but they had a tendency to split and were not very well accepted--think about the nature of plastics in the 1940s."

In 1959, Remington introduced the Nylon 66 semi-auto, French says, and later, a family of rimfire rifles in lever action. bolt action and even a handgun, the centerfire XP100, all with Zytel Nylon Stocks.

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"At that time, there were two camps--love it or hate it," French said. "It was either, 'I'm not going to own a little junk gun with a plastic stock!' or 'How neat, it's really light.'"

Then came fiberglass.

"Some of the pioneers started doing lay-up stocks," French said. "They would take a foam core and shave it to the shape of a rifle stock, and then they'd take layers of fiberglass with a polyester resin and lay it up, just like you would a surfboard."

Most of today's synthetic stocks are injection-molded, using various materials, French says. Some are made of nylon-based materials; others use polypropylene-based materials.

"There are a lot of 'secret blends' that are proprietary," French said. "But today's thermoplastic injection-molded stocks are made kind of like you'd make many of the plastic products that are available today in countless applications."

The main advantage of a synthetic stock is stability.

"It doesn't absorb moisture the same, or react to environmental changes as drastically as wood," French said. "In general, synthetic stocks are stronger, are more uniform from part to part, and they won't warp out of shape in high humidity."

A synthetic stock usually is lighter than a wood stock, which can increase recoil. The solution is to add weight. In addition, some manufacturers add recoil-reduction systems to their stocks and most install an enhanced recoil pad.

Added Profits

For the dealer, synthetic stocks offer a significant profit opportunity. First, most hunters today prefer rifles and shotguns with synthetic stocks. Manufacturers have responded with wide offerings of hunting long guns with numerous synthetic stock options.

In addition, several major gun manufacturers offer synthetic stocks as separate units for the firearms they manufacture, including Beretta, Browning, Ruger and Remington.

Major manufacturers of aftermarket synthetic stocks are Advanced Technology, Bell and Carlson, CoreLite, Hogue, H-S Precision, Michaels of Oregon and McMillan.

For hunters who want to hunt with an older firearm that has a wooden stock, dealers can upgrade the rifle or shotgun with a synthetic stock. This upgrades the customer to the latest trend, likely improves his hunting experience, protects his wooden stock and moves one more accessory out the door. Happy customers equal repeat business and referrals.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Humphrey, David
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Mar 1, 2005
Words:2000
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