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In-store promotion: like having an extra salesman.

In-Store Promotion: Like Having An Extra Salesman

Joe was a gun dealer. He'd owned his little shop for as long as most folks could remember. It was an old-fashioned shop without frills, much like Joe, himself. Joe took great pride in the fact that the shop looked much like it had the day he first opened it, filled with merchandise but completely free of ornamentation, decoration, or fancy displays. Joe sold a few guns (fewer every year, it seemed), some ammo, cleaning patches and such, even an occasional jacket, jackknife or pair of boots -- usually to his regulars.

Because, you see, Joe was bound and determined that his regulars were the only customers he needed. And he was convinced that as long as he continued doing things as he always had, his regulars would keep coming back. That's why Joe didn't bother with such fancy, expensive foofaws as advertising and promotion, and why he never bothered to learn much about new concepts in sales, marketing and merchandising. That stuff was for the young "hot shots" who didn't know what a real gun shop was all about. "Heck," Joe was often heard to say. "Why should I spend good money on ads that just bring in a bunch of tire kickers? And why tear up my shop for a bunch of displays? My regular customers will keep me going, and they already know what I got and where I keep it."

Then one day, Joe's regulars stopped coming to his shop. Some had moved away, some died, and some just finally decided that Joe's wasn't the only shop in town. They had been reading the ads his competitors had been running, you see, and after trying those other shops they'd decided that the alternatives being offered to them were more appealing than climbing over Joe's piles of clutter and listening to his same old hunting stories year after boring year. And, since Joe had scorned any kind of advertising or promotion, he had no new customers with which to replace his old ones. And the few fresh bodies who did wander in usually beat a hasty retreat, because neither Joe nor his shop did anything to hold their interest.

I guess we all know what happened to Joe, don't we?

Okay, I admit my Joe the Gun Dealer story was fabricated. But only a little. The moral of the whole fable is this: In today's fast paced world of competition retailing, no gun dealer can hope to operate profitably without continually reaching out to prospective new customers with effective, well-planned advertising.

And, any dealer with a sincere desire to be really successful must also learn to start selling to his new customers the minute they walk in his door. I don't mean just nose-to-nose selling and knowing how to close a sale, although that's certainly a critical element to any retailer's survival. I'm talking about going a step farther by creating a positive selling environment in your store.

The fact is, ads create interest, but what transpires once a prospect crosses your threshold is what usually determines his buying decision. That first impression is much more important than you might think. Because if he's "just looking", or if you and your sales staff are busy with other customers and he's left to his own devices for a few minutes, what he sees and how your business and merchandise are presented are either going to soften him up for a sale or convince him that your shop holds no interest for him.

In-store promotion and effective product merchandising are areas that are as neglected today as they were when dealers like Joe opened shop so many years ago. But they shouldn't be, because they're as important a part of the overall marketing process as media advertising and one-on-one selling. Nor do they have to be neglected, neither, because of cost or ignorance. Because with the help provided by manufacturers and with a little common sense and creativity, upgrading your in-store promotional efforts can be very inexpensive and relatively simple.

Try these pointers on for size:

1) If you want them to buy it, let them see it.

Every retailer should already know that. That's why most try to keep at least one of everything on display, particularly big ticket items like firearms. But carry that a step farther by following the same practice with accessory items like optics, knives, holsters, slings and carrying cases. An awful lot of "lookers" turn into buyers if impulse items are kept out in the open instead of in the back room or under the counter. There's a fine line between good merchandising and clutter. But reorganize your whole shop if necessary to make full use of your available display space. The more stuff your customer can see and touch without having to ask for it, the more likely he'll become a buyer.

2) If you've got something special, feature it!

If you've worked a heckuva deal with your supplier for a truckload of shotgun shells...if you just bought an extra dozen scopes, holsters or rifle cases on a special promotion...if you've managed to get your hands on several of the new shotguns or pistols that have been written up and advertised in all the gun magazines but nobody has been able to get...tell the world about it! You can (and should) advertise that special stuff, ofcourse. But you should also make sure it's right in your customer's face when he strolls into your shop. If that means building a special display, then build it. But for crying out loud, don't bury it on the shelf or in the racks with the same stuff you carry all the time. If it's really special, treat it as such, and give it a place of honor. That way your customers will know it's special, too.

3) Use thematic and seasonal displays to sell overall concepts.

Ever notice how better department stores and clothing stores expend so much effort on special in-store displays of seasonal merchandise? You know the kind--back-to-school displays built in the middle of the aisles with clothing, school supplies and shoes; spring/summer displays with a mannequin dressed in the latest styles and carrying a tennis racket, putter or beach bag. Some of the fancier displays even incorporate props--anything from tree trunks and leaves to school desks or the front of an old car. The purpose of those lavish displays is not just to sell the merchandise on display, but to establish a mood and to get buyers' imaginations working.

I've always thought that tasteful displays were one of the things that set the better stores apart from the discount stores. Get my drift? If you want to be thought of as a class operation, present yourself as one. It's really not as difficult as you might think. First, establish an area or areas in your shop for a special seasonal or thematic display. Even a small shop can afford space for one small display. Then, change displays regularly so they don't get old, either monthly or seasonally. Combine firearms or bows, and several accessory items pertinent to the theme you've chosen. For props and backgrounds, a little imagination can keep costs down by using easily available items like grass mats, rocks, tree limbs, reeds and rushes, old wooden crates, camo fabric or burlap, barn board or old fence posts--particularly anything that will add interest and tie the whole display together.

For instance:

.A waterfowl hunting theme should include not only a shotgun, ammo, camo clothing and boots, but smaller accessory items like duck calls and gloves, as well. To grab your buyers' attention, erect a small duck blind from nature's own materials, or cut an old johnboat in half. Decoys are a must, too. Anybody who hunts ducks or wants to hunt ducks will be attracted like a magnet, and he'll immediately start thinking about what kind of gear or supplies he's going to need this year.

.Fox, coyote, coon or even deer hunters will immediately be drawn to a display that includes not only the appropriate tools of the trade, but a prime example of the specie being hunted, too. If you don't happen to have a stuffed coyote in your back room, try to work a deal with a local taxidermist; if he'll loan you a critter, offer to post a sign with it promoting his service and maybe hand out his business cards.

.If you cater to high power or small bore target shooters, try creating a display with all the gear so recognizable to shooters of that persuasion. In addition to the appropriate firearms and ammo, be sure to include a shooting jacket and gloves, a shooting mat, eye and ear protection, even a shooting stool and cleaning equipment. For props use standard bull's-eye targets and maybe a cap from one of the manufacturers whose products are commonly identified with that particular shooting discipline. A trophy borrowed from a successful shooter would also be a nice touch. I flat guarantee you that any shooter who has ever entertained the idea of shooting a local DCM match or dreamed of competing at Camp Perry will experience an immediate quickening of his pulse when he sees that display. And, if he doesn't buy something on the spot, he will soon.

Follow the same format for thematic displays on combat and practical pistol shooting, reloading, archery, law enforcement or home defense. Use a combination of merchandise (and lots of it) with well chosen props and some kind of coordinated background or setting to grab your customers' attention. The rest will take care of itself. If you're not confident of your own abilities as a display designer, give one of your employees a whack at it or have a contest among your staff members. Or, contact one of the people who does display work for a local department store. You might find a full-time designer who's interested in moonlighting, and for a very few extra bucks you could give your displays a really professional touch.

(Incidentally, while in the process of writing this narrative, I visited nine different gun shops in my own local market during a two week period, with the intention of photographing displays to accompany the test of this article. Unfortunately, nobody had any. Although most had plenty of guns on the racks and in the display cases, clothing on hangars, and accessories on shelves and wire racks, not one of those nine stores had a single thematic or seasonal display anywhere on the premises. In the middle of hunting season, not one retailer had the foresight to do something extra special that might light the fire or titillate someone's imagination...that little edge that just might set his storeful of merchandise apart from someone else's storeful of merchandise. Kind of proves my point, doesn't it. Maybe in your town, as in mine, the time is ripe for some smart firearms retailer like you to be different, be aggressive, and be a leader.)

4) If your manufacturers offer materials, use them.

Most manufacturers who supply shooting sports retailers have finally recognized the value of strong local promotion as an important supplement to their national advertising efforts. That's why many of them offer various sales aids and point of purchase materials to their retailers.

If your suppliers offer display racks with their logo, product posters, banners, counter cards or shelf talkers, use them; your customers will immediately identify the products they've seen advertised and reviewed in their favorite magazines and they'll be much more receptive to your sales pitch. If they offer promotional literature or product videos, use them liberally to educate your customers about that manufacturer's product line. Manufacturers spend a great deal of money to advertise their products nationally. So if you have an opportunity to tie-in with their efforts by using their materials, be a smart enough retailer to go for it.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Publishers' Development Corporation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:firearms retailing
Author:Grueskin, Robert
Publication:Shooting Industry
Article Type:column
Date:Feb 1, 1989
Previous Article:Pro-gun leaders are predicting a hot political summer on the gun issue.
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