Create a buzz: transform your long-gun & accessory sales.
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?
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.")
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."
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."
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.
"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.
"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.
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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|Date:||Mar 1, 2005|
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