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Gun-care sales mistakes: clean up your techniques--and profit!

Most gun dealers don't sell enough gun-care products. Despite the enormous number of gun-cleaning and maintenance products available--and the good margins and repeat sales they offer--many gun shops neglect this segment of the market. This hurts your bottom line and is costly to your customers.

"People need to keep their guns clean. There's a safety factor here. With a dirty gun, there's a higher possibility of a malfunction," said Steve Rodgers, dealer services lead for ATK.


Educating your customer about the importance of gun cleaning is vital, according to Leaha Wirth, marketing manager for KleenBore.

"I think consumers often don't know why it's important to have a clean gun. Sometimes, they don't even know what to buy that meets their needs. Every time you sell a gun, you should train the customer on how the gun works and how to keep it clean so that it does work. Every time you sell a gun, you should sell a cleaning kit with it," Wirth said.

Here are six of the most common mistakes gun dealers make when it comes to selling gun-care products--and suggested fixes.

Mistake #1: Not offering products as add-on sales.

"You should be able to up-sell every gun with about $100 worth of accessories, including gun-care products," said Doreen Garrett, president of Otis Technology. "If someone is going to spend $700 to $1,200 on a firearm, he needs to buy a good-quality maintenance system to help him clean it properly."

Wirth says gun dealers will sell more cleaning items if they stress how gun cleaning is important to gun safety.

"When you're selling a gun to a consumer, you ask some basic questions about how they're going to use the gun. Then, you're going to sell them everything they need to use it successfully, including ammunition. If you're keen enough to sell ammunition with the gun, you're keen enough to educate the customer about how to keep it clean for functionality's sake," Wirth said.

Keying in on the customer's need--whether the firearm is for sporting clays, hunting or self-defense--will help close the sale, Wirth said.

"Stressing how gun cleaning can contribute to his success should be common sense for the guy behind the gun counter," Wirth said. "If cleaning is mentioned in that context, it should be easy to sell a cleaning kit with every gun."

Mistake #2: Failure to recognize the profit potential.


"I think retailers often don't recognize the margin potential in this type of accessory," Garrett said. "With margins running as high as 35 to 40 percent, or sometimes higher, gun-care products are worth the shelf space."

Spend some time crunching the numbers. Contact your sales reps and do an analysis of what products you should offer and their profit potential. If you're already carrying an array of cleaning products, evaluate your offerings. Are you carrying the right mix of products that give you the highest return?

There are a vast number of cleaning products available to consider. In addition to major manufacturers' products, also consider Iosso's GunBrite, OGS-3 Synthetic Gun Oil from Masters Gun Care and Gun Butter's lubricant.

Mistake #3: Poor product positioning.

"If the customer doesn't see gun-care products, he's not going to buy them. He won't think about them. Keep a kit or brushes near the gun area where people can see them. This reminds them that taking care of the gun is part of responsible gun ownership," Wirth said.

Locate your main gun-care display near the gun department so customers associate gun-care products and firearms as items they should purchase together.

Garrett said most gun-cleaning departments she sees aren't as well-organized as other accessory items.

"There's no rhyme or reason to how gun-care products are displayed," she said. "Dealers often just put all their gun-care products on one aisle, but don't arrange them by type of gun. Most of them are organized by brand, which can be confusing to the customer."

Many manufacturers offer displays or display systems so dealers can organize their gun-care products.

"We have a 2-foot display and a 4-foot display for the Outers and the Gun-slick lines," Rodgers said. "The dealers can buy the displays and have everything they need, including brushes, mops and kits, by caliber. That makes you a one-stop shop for everything the customer needs for gun care."

Mistake #4: Lack of basic product knowledge.

If you aren't familiar with gun-care products, or you don't know how to properly clean a gun, you don't have what it takes to sell cleaning products. That goes for your employees, as well.

Garrett said manufacturers have a responsibility to help educate retailers and their staff about the importance of selling the right gun-care products for each firearm.

"At Otis, our reps provide in-store training for store personnel. That way, store personnel are educated and can provide information to the customer on what they need for each firearm," Garrett said.


Rodgers says frontliners need to learn as much as possible about the gun-care lines.

"I realize that gun-care products don't have the prestige guns or ammunitions do. But, retailers need to take advantage of the training opportunities manufacturers offer, whether that's a training seminar or a DVD," he said.

It's also up to you to make education a part of every sale. Once the customer understands the importance of keeping his gun clean--for safety and performance reasons--selling him the equipment and cleaning products he needs is easier. Consider establishing a gun-cleaning education station.

"Some dealers have their gunsmith teach customers how to clean guns at a gun-cleaning station. Others put on seminars or use another educational format to teach customers the proper way to clean a firearm," Rodgers said.

Garrett says retailers will greatly increase their sales if they teach consumers how to properly clean a gun from breech to muzzle.

"We supply all Otis kits with an instructional video. Plus, all our POP materials are going to transition into educational tools for the dealer, so there's a 'salesman' at every kiosk," Garrett said.

Mistake #5: Failure to take advantage of waiting periods.

You and your customers hate waiting periods. Instead of griping about them, use them to your--and your customers'--advantage.

"It's hard to leave a store with nothing when you've just spent several hundred dollars," Garrett said. "But when you take the time to educate your customer about what he needs and then sell him a gun-cleaning kit, he has literature and brochures he can read to educate himself. Then, when he comes back to pick up the gun, he already knows how to properly clean and maintain it."

This is certainly more satisfying to the customer than buying a gun and not taking anything home with him, and it helps drive the sale of gun-care kits and equipment. Plus, when the customer has time to read the brochures and literature, when he comes back to pick up the gun, he may have thought of something he didn't buy the first time.


Mistake #6: Not treating gun-care products as necessities.

"Some dealers purchase the cheapest cleaning products they can, because they figure someone sooner or later is going to buy a gun and just pull a cleaning product off the shelf," Wirth said. "But the dealers who are really successful with our products understand the value of a higher-end cleaning kit that meets the customer's needs. They know the average gun owner isn't going to come in looking for a cleaning kit. They merchandise cleaning products in such a way that the customer says, 'Hey, I need this,' instead of just treating them like something else hanging on the wall."

In addition, once you get a customer using gun-cleaning products, he will come back to purchase solvents and other equipment.

Which of these mistakes are you making? Use some of these "fixes" to upgrade your gun-care and maintenance department, serve your customers better and increase the dollars gun buyers spend in your store.

Beretta U.S.A. 306
Birchwood Casey 307
Blue Wonder 308
Break-Free Inc. 309
Browning 310
B-Square 311
Chem-Pak Inc. 312
Corrosion Technologies 313
Eezox Inc. 314
Flitz International Ltd. 315
Gun Butter 316
Gunslick 317
Hoppe's 318
Iosso Products 319
KG Industries 320
KleenBore Inc. 321
L & R Ultrasonics 322
Lyman Products 323
Masters Gun Care 324
Militec 325
Mil-Comm Products 326
Otis Technology Inc. 327
Outers 328
Pachmayr 329
Prolix Lubricants 330
Quake Industries 331
Remington Arms 332
Sentry Solutions 333
SharpShoot-R Precision 334
Shooter's Choice 335
Sinclair International 336
SLiP2000 337
Tetra Gun Care 338
Thompson/Center Arms 339
Tipton Gun Cleaning Supplies 340
USP Bore Paste 341
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Comment:Gun-care sales mistakes: clean up your techniques--and profit!
Author:Boyles, Carolee Anita
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:May 1, 2007
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