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Gift cards: the gift that keeps on giving to dealers.

Paper gift certificates are on the way out, and it's time for the savvy gun dealer to make an investment in a plastic gift-card system.

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Luckily, recent technology has made a gift-card system much easier and less expensive to install. Also, gift cards tied into your POS system eliminate a lot of the accounting headaches old-style gift certificates caused. Most gun shops can be up and running with the purchase of gift-card software and a relatively inexpensive gift-card printing machine.

Gun dealers who have made the investment report the system is easy to use and well worth the money. Miles Hall, founder of H&H Gun Range in Oklahoma City, Okla., says the initial cost of setting his store up with a plastic gift-card system was very reasonable, and his staff has gotten quite creative with their cards, with custom cards for Mother's Day, Father's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, anniversaries and birthdays.

"People just love them," Hall said. "They've been an absolute hit beyond belief."

Gun stores and gift cards are a perfect fit, Hall says, because due to legal issues, "you can't buy guns for someone else, so buying a gift card just makes sense."

Also, giving a gift card to a woman means she isn't saddled with a gun she doesn't like, but instead gets to come in and pick out a gun that truly fits her needs.

Gift cards used to have a bit of a stigma attached to them, but Hall says those days are over.

"The phobia of a gift card is gone," he said. "People love that they can spend the card on what they want."

"It's Just So Much Easier"

Gift cards also have a lot of bonuses for the retailer. Hall said the number one benefit to his business is that gift cards offer easy sales. His store sells them online (as well as at their retail outlet), and online sales have really taken off.

"It's just so much easier," Hall said. "People can order the cards from home and send them to the person."

He also noted that when it comes to in-store gift-card sales, any clerk is able to sell the cards, which is especially valuable during busy sales times when a store's gun experts may have several people waiting to talk to them. Customers can purchase a gift card from the cashier and return during a less busy time with the gift-card recipient to ask questions about various firearms.

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Another reason store owners are enthusiastic about gift cards is because people generally spend more than the value of the card, says John Tandy, co-op/marketing manager of Gamaliel Shooting Supply in Gamaliel, Ky.

"People usually receive a $50 gift card for their birthdays. Of course, you know they're going to spend more than $50 when they come in the store with the card," Tandy said.

He also noted that people are much more likely to buy more expensive products when they have a gift card.

Some dealers have been reluctant to get into gift cards because there is the perception that people don't use them and they cause accounting problems on the dealer's books. Hall says this hasn't been a problem for his store because he uses a computerized system. Some store owners view unredeemed gift cards as a benefit as it improves cash flow and the dealer earns interest on the money sitting in an escrow account.

It's very important that dealers check their state laws on gift card non-redemption because many states have strict rules about honoring the cards and expiration dates. Hall uses a traceable gift-card system, so if a customer's card is lost, Hall can replace it. This makes people feel more comfortable about giving and getting gift cards, plus it demonstrates excellent customer service.

"A gift card is just another way to build a relationship with your customer," Hall said. "If the customer remembers having a good experience, they will come back."

If it really bothers you to have unredeemed gift cards floating around, you can offer incentives to redeem the cards.

Include a note to the gift-card recipient saying they will get 10 percent off their purchase if they redeem the card by a certain date. Hall said a gun dealer he knows actually calls gift-card recipients who have held onto their cards for a while and reminds them to use it.

Dealers can also use their gift cards as a sales tool. During the big summer sale at H&H Gun Range, Hall decided that rather than offer a percentage discount on merchandise, customers would get a gift card worth a percentage of their purchase to use for future purchases. For example, rather than offering $200 off an item, the customer who bought an expensive item would get a $200 gift card to use once the sale was over. He said his sales staff was skeptical about the idea, but not one single customer complained.

"So we got full price for the items, and they will come back and spend more with the gift card," Hall said.

Bonus Advertising

Don't forget about the valuable advertising gift cards provide. It may sit in a customer's wallet for a month or two, but during that time it acts as advertising for your store. The customer is constantly seeing your name and logo, and thinking they need to get in to your store and use that card.

Another use for a gift-card system is refunds. You can create a store policy that offers store gift cards for the amount of the product returned instead of cash. That way, they money paid for the returned item stays in your store.

Plastic gift cards' electronic connection to your POS system is the magic that makes gift cards easy and useful to the gun dealer. Start-up costs are reasonable, and once you have them on your Web site and available at your store, you'll wonder what you ever did without them.

Gift-Card Software Resources

Gamaliel Shooting Supply uses gift-card software from POS International, and gets their cards from Plastic Cards Plus. Visit www.posintl.com and www.plasticardplus. com for more information.

H&H Gun Range uses Data Cards to print their gift cards. Contact Data Cards at www. datacard.com or 1-800-328-3996. Back Blast
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Title Annotation:Arms and the woman
Comment:Gift cards: the gift that keeps on giving to dealers.(Arms and the woman)
Author:Parsons-Wraith, Lisa
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Nov 1, 2009
Words:1050
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