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Let's get down to cases ... gun cases that is.


We went with our friend Mark to pick up his new gun. This was the one, he told us, that would net him that trophy buck. He'd skipped a lot of lunches to buy this beauty.

We stood by as he checked it out, and watched approvingly as the shop owner sold him both a soft case and a rigid case to go with the new rifle.

That shopkeeper is a pretty savvy guy. He pointed out to Mark the need to protect this expensive firearm. Sure, most of Mark's hunting would be local, so the soft case was ideal. Lightweight, yet offering protection from dust and dings as the rifle was carried behind the car seat, and out in the field.

Since Mark would be flying to Texas to hunt trophy buck, the rigid case was an absolute necessity. Its solid frame and cushioning foam would assure that Mark's gun survived ham-handed baggage handlers, and the generally rough treatment most airline baggage receives. As Ron Mattson owner of Cascade Fabrications, points out, "Nothing ruins a hunting trip faster than watching your gun and case revolving separately on the airport luggage carousel."

Selling gun cases to everyone who buys a firearm is a lesson every gun dealer should learn. As Tom Boog of Black Sheep stresses, "Dealers can enjoy a greater profit margin from the sale of a gun case than from the firearm itself."

Gary Thor of Stor-Mor Products says display placement is of paramount important in accomplishing such cross sales. "Cases should be displayed in the immediate area of gun sales to associate the case with the gun at the time of the sale. A customer that is spending the money for a new gun will also spend a little extra to protect his new toy -- if he remembers."

Attractive displays move gun cases. Black Sheep's Boog offers this advice, "The best way to display soft gun cases is to remove the protective wrapping. Then hang the cases on display racks that invite customers to touch, feel, and operate the zippers."

In one shop we know of the proprietor has a soft case with a gun in it, so prospective buyers can get the heft and feel of the loaded case. Several of each model are in the stockroom because they take up almost no room at all -- there are at least two dozen soft cases back there.

Steve Rowe of Michaels of Oregon heartily approves of this approach. He points out, "Soft cases are easier to store, they take up less room in closets, hunting rigs, camps, and the dealers' store and stockroom."

Display racks are an important part of merchandising soft gun cases. As Sharon Ellis, manager of sales for Bob Allen, notes, "Gun case display racks should be sturdy, take up minimal space, show a multitude of product, and be versatile...i.e. stand against a wall or in the center of the store."

One other point: "Color sells," according to Gary Henry, president of Stockmen's Gun Cases, manufacturers of the Navajo Overlay. Ellis agrees, "Consumers are attracted to displays that have color. The traditional browns and blacks simply do not create interest."

Your approach to rigid cases may be a bit different, however. If you know that only a few of your customers will need them, don't stock more than three. Set up one hard-body case on the counter with a gun already in it. Tilt it forward so your customers can see how the firearms fits. Encourage interested purchasers to close it, carry it around, and examine the locks. Be knowledgeable about different kinds of gun cases.

Unfortunately, many retailers are not well-informed on the "whys" and "hows" of stocking and selling gun cases. Far too many gun dealers get caught up in the thrill of selling a firearm. So much so that they neglect to even ask the purchaser how he's going to get the gun home, or where he's going to use it. Questions like these are often the basis for additional sales. If your customer is taking his gun to the local range, or hunting within a few miles of home he's a candidate for a soft case. If, on the other hand, he's flying anywhere to hunt, or traveling long distances over rough terrain to get to his favorite deer woods, he's going to need a hard-body case.

For all intents and purposes there are two types of gun cases; soft and rigid. The soft case is usually made of fabric, nylon, vinyl, or leather with a foam or fleece lining. They're used primarily to transport firearms short distances. The guy hunting close to home is a good candidate for one. So is the waterfowler, boating out to a duck blind. Or the hunter taking a horse into the high country after elk.

Take the time to tell your customers that soft cases should never be used for permanent storage of their firearms. The vinyl and nylon exteriors of many cases will trap rust-causing moisture in the fleece or foam interior. We know of one fellow who left his gun in a soft case for three weeks. When he finally opened the case he found the barrel pitted beyond repair! Sure, he'd wiped the gun carefully before putting it away. But the high humidity of the delta country he was hunting had seeped into the fleece lining of the case. And because the durable vinyl exterior had trapped that moisture inside, it had nowhere to go but onto the barrel of his favorite shotgun.

It's this kind of attention to detail and quality of service that will keep your customers coming back to you. In their minds you're the expert, and they'll turn to you every time.

Rigid cases are usually made of aluminum, plastic, and on rare occasion wood and leather. Generally speaking they have a foam lining of some kind.

Where rigid cases are concerned, it's rarely a good idea to stock dozens of them. For one thing, storage is a problem -- they take up a lot of room. Secondly, you may not have the kind of clientele that buys a large quantity of hard-body cases. Ron Mattson of Cascade Fabrications suggests. "The dealer doesn't need to keep more than two or three rigid cases on hand. If he sells one of ours, he can call us, order a replacement, and we'll ship it out next day. However, he should have several in the store at all times. This lets his customers know that he's knowledgeable about the product and serious about tending to their needs."

Bob Knouff of Impact Case Co., concurs. "We encourage dealers to stock both hard and soft cases, but don't expect them to display or store large quantities of either type. We realize it's important for the dealer to turn over as many dollars as possible per cubic foot of space. But we also realize it's not a good decision to dedicate a large amount of space to the rigid case."

Rigid cases can do everything a soft case can, and in some instances, do it better. There's no question that the hunter who flies to his destination needs a quality, hard-body case. Jim Burkholder of Woodstream Corporation agrees: "It's to the dealers advantage to point out to the customer that's just made an expensive firearms purchase that it makes sense to carry than gun in a rigid case. And if airline travel is involved he has no other choice."

While the market for rigid gun cases is not as wide as soft cases, you're cheating yourself, and your customers, if you don't have several on hand, and at least one on display.

So it makes sense to stock both types of cases. And since the industry-wide margin is generally 40 percent, most cases are sold at or near retail. With that in mind Jeff Stimpson, gun case product manager for Browning offers this bit of advice:

"The dealer is better off going with a less expensive case for his low-end market than discounting his higher-end products."

When you start making decisions about which cases to stock you might want to keep a few things in mind:

-- Every firearm you sell is an opportunity for a gun case sale. Same goes for sales on scopes, or gun repairs. Let your customer know how important it is to protect that new gun. If he buys a scope the old case may no longer fit. And a damaged gun often is the result of not using a case in the first place.

-- Soft cases require little storage and display space. But create visual appeal with them. Bob Allen's "Famous Name" gun cases, for instance, draw in users of those firearms. Or try hanging some of Stockman's "Navajo Overlay" gun cases in your display. The vibrant colors will draw your customers over.

By the way, have you ever tried to gift-wrap a gun case or find a box to put it in? Then you'll appreciate Bob Allen's The Gift Box -- specially designed to hold soft cases.

-- Put a rigid gun case on display with a firearm in it. Have the case where your customers can see and touch it. If you're worried about theft, here's a pointer from Ron Mattson at Cascade Fabrications: "Take one of my gun cases and remove the ethafoam. Replace it with a piece of Masonite to which some sturdy cords have been attached. Replace the top layer of foam and poke some holes above the cords. Lay the gun in the case, pull the cords through and tie them around the gun. This makes it harder for the potential thief to walk away with the firearm."

-- Be knowledgeable about how and when to use gun cases. You'll become the expert your customers will tell their friends to contact. If you're in horse country, for example, you might want to lay in a supply of scabbards and pack-in cases, such as those offered by Stor-Mor. Outside of horse country, you want to know where to get these cases for customers planning a Rocky Mountain hunt.

-- Stock both soft and hard cases. Your customers' needs will, of course, dictate how many of each you'll want on hand. It's a good idea to have low, medium, and high-end products, to offer your customers a choice.

PHOTO : Stockmen's Soft Gun Cases

PHOTO : Woodstream's new camo hard gun case

PHOTO : Hoppe's Div. of Penguin Industries offers a nice line of camo hard gun cases.

PHOTO : Custom soft gun cases from Bob Allen

PHOTO : Orvis offers this Premium Gun Case for Shotguns.

PHOTO : Above, MTM Molded Products offers their Case Guard pistol cases. Top right, Hunting Classics makes what they call the Classic Triple Gun Case, which does what it says. Above right, Hunting Classic also offers this camouflage classic gun case cover with strap. Right, Here's a new combination gun and bow case from Americase. Below, Michaels of Oregon has come out with this Assault Rifle Case from Uncle Mike's.

PHOTO : Browning offers all sorts and sizes of soft gun cases to accommodate a number of long guns and handguns.

PHOTO : A sample of one of Impact Case Company's hard long gun cases.
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Author:Elliott, Brook; Elliott, Barbara
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jun 1, 1989
Previous Article:Security and the gun shop.
Next Article:SI takes a look at POW WOW '89: going with a winner.

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