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Gun guardians.

Despite the double digit decline in firearm sales during most of the year, the sale of safes and lockboxes has continued to grow. With the rise in burglaries, savvy firearm owners are willing to spend the money to prevent their guns from ending up in the hands of bad guys. Gun owners are also taking steps to keep guns away from curious youths.

The safe and lockbox business can add handsomely to a gun dealer's bottom line. Forecasts indicate the market will continue to grow, and for good reason. Keeping firearms locked up is now the standard for most gun owners. Gone are the days when a proud gun owner hung a favorite rifle over the fireplace.

Today, the threat of thefts and a host of new liability laws leave gun owners with few options. In the long run, the safest and least expensive option is to purchase a storage product. Even before their first firearm, many new gun owners investigate the types of storage products available.

One dealer told of a customer he had recently sent home with a Cannon safe. The next weekend the customer was burglarized and despite repeated attempts by the culprits, the Cannon safe withstood the onslaught. The customer's guns and other family valuables were saved, and the store owner had another believer for a customer.

Dealers also need to protect their businesses from liability lawsuits that can follow a shooting mishap. By offering a storage unit to customers, even if they don't make a purchase, dealers establish their goodfaith efforts to ensure the safe keeping of the firearm.

While the marketplace is healthy for lockboxes and safes, dealers still need to make the sale. Safes with their higher price tags, require more information and salesmanship before a customer is going to break out his checkbook. However, the sales are there to be made. Here's how a number of dealers have made storage products a viable part of their business.

Yes, the safe market is strong, but your customers will require a good deal of information before they're ready to haul a safe off to their home. Because the market has been on the upswing, more companies are offering safes, and the selection and options can be a bit bewildering

A dealer should first become educated on safes, their features and options. A customer will want to know about fireproofing, locking options, and shelf/rack configurations. Of particular interest to customers today is the locking mechanisms. Customers want locks that will prevent the wrong person from opening the safe while offering quick access. That's why electronic combination locks have become so popular. The electronic locks from Sargent & Greenleaf are extremely easy to use, with a touch pad that is designed exactly like a telephone key pad.

Even after a customer is convinced that he needs a safe and has selected the right options, there's still the price tag to overcome. Often seen as a high-ticket item, the cost for an average safe is not quite as scary today, now that the cost of an average gun has reached the $500 and $600 mark. As an added value. guns safes can protect more than firearms.

"We point out the versatility of safes," said Bryan Harris, of Turner's Out-doorsman, of southern California. "They can be used for storing other valuables like jewelry, camera equipment and documents which helps enhance their value, even to customers who don't own firearms. "The bulk of our safe sales are in the $700 to $800 range, which is very close to the cost of many firearms in today's market. If you explain to your customer how a safe can protect their valuables, not to mention safety from firearm accidents, a safe suddenly becomes a real investment "One burglary can wipe out even a minor collection of four or five guns When you look at the loss incurred versus the cost of a safe, most customers see the value of that insurance."

The rise in crime has helped to increase the number of safes being sold today. According to Harris, Turner's safe sales have gone up steadily during the past three years.

"Crime rates, riots and increased gun sales during the first year or two may have helped to account for some of it," he said, "but right now, even with gun sales down dramatically, our safe sales are holding."

Dealers should also inform their customers that many insurance companies will offer discounts n policies if valuables are locked in safe. Of course, each customer should check with their insurance companies to determine the benefits.

A dealer doesn't have to display safes to sell them. Bob Fleischer of Prime Time Sports in Downer's Grove, III., special orders them for drop shipment directly to customers. This eliminates the delivery problem. Fleischer now uses the floor space he used to devote to safes for displaying accessories. He also agreed that safes have continued to be steady sellers.

"If I know a customer has more than a couple of guns, I'll bring the subject of a safe up during a conversation," Fleischer said. "I explain that it doesn't take much to add up to $5,000 worth of guns. The modest cost of a safe can pretty much guarantee their safety, both from burglars and accidents."

Prime Time Sports usually sells Fort Knox safes because of their overall construction, lockwork and hidden hinge feature.

Louis Swarts, of Big Buck Sports in Hattiesburg, Miss., is one dealer who believes in safes and makes it a point to have at least a dozen of them on hand as display models.

"Safes have been real good for us, and we only sell fireproof models as a rule," Swarts said. "After explaining their value for storing jewelry and other valuables, we've found the peace of mind is worth the extra investment in the fireproofing."

Big Buck Sports stocks Liberty and Browning safes and buys them 12 at a time. A substantial amount of floor space is devoted to their display, but Swarts says it pays dividends.

"Having the safes on hand makes a difference. If a customer can actually see the quality and variety available, rather than just photos in a brochure, they are more inclined to buy," he said.

The most popular safes, according to Swarts, are the 13-to 18-gun models. They offer a blend of storage for long guns and shelves for handguns and other valuables. Big Buck Sports has contracted with a local moving company to deliver the safes for the customer.

"We put the customer in contact with the moving company and for around $100, the move is made quickly and safely," Swarts said. "It's well worth the money."

There are numerous lockbox designs on the market to fit your customers' needs. There are single- and multi-handgun models, those that bolt to walls, the floor, bed frames or vehicle floorboards and models that can double as a carrying case. Lockboxes also can compliment a safe sale.

"When customers buy a safe, they often buy a lockbox or two," said Harris of Turner's. "The safe is for security of their guns and valuables and the lockbox is for quick accessibility and safety around children. Our models range from a low of about $20 to a high of $140. Lockboxes in the $89 range make up the bulk of sales for the four models we stock."

While you may be able to sell safes without stocking them, most dealers agree it is important to have them on hand.

"I stock Cannon lockboxes and if I'm out of them, people will ask for them," explains Fleischer, of Prime Time Sports. "It's important to stock the product so customers can see it and so you can show it." Harris agrees. "If you have the room, stock a variety of lockboxes and keep them where your customers can lay their hands on them."

Dealers might consider a simple display that challenges customers to see how fast they can open a lockbox. Such a display by GunVault at the SHOT Show in Las Vegas this year proved to be a real attention getter. The display consisted of several models of GunVault's lockboxes and a sign asking, "How fast can you open this GunVault? With your eyes closed!" Remember, your customer is probably thinking, "How long will it take me to get my gun out of this box in the dark?"

Most dealers agree that it's important to have lockboxes on hand for demonstration. Impulse sales are high with lockboxes. Dealer after dealer interviewed said the same thing: Show a lockbox when you show a handgun and you will almost always have two sales. Lockboxes are a natural add-on for handgun sales.

RELATED ARTICLE: Selling Safes & Lockboxes

- A check List -

[] Inform your customers of laws governing the storage of firearms.

[] Make sure you and your staff are knowledgeable concerning specifications of the models popular in your area.

[] Show them you are interested in their safety by pointing out lockbox and safe options in their price range.

[] Emphasize the dual role a safe can play in storing other valuables.

[] Provide information on a local moving company to assist with transporting a purchased safe, or offer to cover the cost of the move.

[] Show a lockbox at the same time you show a handgun. Make it obvious that one should automatically go with the other.

[] Stock the items and display them where customers can examine them up close. Consider a demonstration that gets the customer involved.

[] Offer discounts on display safes as newer models are introduced by the manufacturers.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:selling gun safes and lockboxes
Author:Huntington, Roy
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Nov 1, 1995
Previous Article:Selling safety.
Next Article:Helping you win the battle, and the $5,000 customer.

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