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Selling high-tech: Why should you sell the latest whiz-bang products? Customer demand and generous profits!

High-tech is changing our lives and the way we do business. As we rush toward the new millennium, high-tech products are being introduced into the shooting sports at an incredible rate.

And for good reasons. Customers are demanding them and there's a generous profit to be made.

The rocket-like advances in technology over the past five years have enabled real computers and GPS devices (with a built-in cellular phone, no less) to become pocket-sized. You now can enjoy satellite communications during your Alaskan hunt, 200 miles from anywhere. When you finally find that big buck at the end of the day, you can call the wife and kids back home in Alabama from the comfort of your cot while you watch TV on the mini-dish brought into camp by the guide.

Am I stretching the picture a bit here? Well, let's hope the TV in the hunting camp never happens, but all the rest is here and it's selling. The steady growth of computers in the workplace, at home and even in the family auto has driven the demand for advanced technology. The blend of the old (steel and wood) with the new (plastic, electronics and miracle metals) in the field of hunting and firearms has been a natural progression.

High-tech is especially important to the next generation of customers. Your younger customer base has grown up on a steady diet of video games, electronic gadgetry and a world surrounded in "high-tech" running shoes, car tires, sunglasses and even breakfast cereals.

Increasingly, hunters are exposed to new technology whenever they pick up an outdoors magazine or walk into a gun store. Night sights, laser sights, red-dot sights, GPS, micro-miniature two-way radios, night-vision equipment and even electronic powder scales are commonplace on dealers shelves today.

Doing High-Tech

"I call it 'affordable technology' and you can't beat it for easy sales if you take the time to sell it," said Eric Beorne, the 46-year-old owner of a small retail firearm and hunting store in the Pacific Northwest. "High performance today comes in small packages and is priced such that no one would have believed it possible five or six years ago."

Beorne has used high-tech to build his business and strongly believes it's important for dealers to keep abreast of new advances in the industry. But, he says, many don't.

"The cost of personal computers has plummeted and performance has skyrocketed," said Beorne. "Look at the GPS of seven or eight years ago. They were the size of a suitcase and cost $5,000. Now they're the size of a pack of cigarettes and cost a hundred bucks. They perform 10 times better to boot.

"I got into the business in the late '80s so I didn't have the strong background in the 'old school' of how a gun store should look and interact with its customers. Coming from a background well-versed in business computer systems, I brought that familiarity of technology with me when I turned my shooting hobby into a business."

To maximize his high-tech business, Beorne has a staff that's comfortable with the latest technology.

"I have two employees in the shop who are young and don't hesitate when they see something new come along," said Beorne. "They reach right for it and start pushing buttons and trying to figure where the batteries go."

According to Beorne, when it comes to technology, that kind of "No Fear" is important in a shop.

"When you've got a customer base who drives 1968 Buicks and thinks a pump shotgun is pretty high-tech, you're going to have your hands full helping them make the transition to laser rangefinders and Global Positioning Systems," said Beorne. "But, I promise if you take the time to introduce them in small steps, like showing them a small, high intensity flashlight like the Streamlight Scorpion, and explain how advances in technology make such things possible, you will soon have them interested."

Many of your customers probably already have a cell phone, perhaps a GPS, or use these things at their work. When they find them in their hobby, used in such a way as to be an obvious asset to their sport, they'll become involved. Especially if the technology is affordable and easily understood. That's where the savvy dealer comes into the digital picture.

What Should You Stock?

High-tech might be defined as anything that uses modern technology to accomplish a task easier, faster or more reliably than before. Products like rangefinders, red-dot sights, electronic compasses, night vision and personal radios handle old chores with ease.

Today's shooter can buy a laser rangefinder for under $200 that can reliably give them the range to a target out to 600 yards within one yard! Just five or six years ago that same technology cost $3,000 to $4,000, was three times as heavy and used four times as much battery power. That's a money maker!

"The new generation of laser rangefinders, coupled with optics, sells easily. The Bushnell Yardage Pro 400 sells at retail for around $200 and handles the majority of a hunter's or target shooter's needs," said Beorne. "The Oregon Scientific Weather Monitor/Altimeter gives a customer in the field a chance to predict the weather using barometric pressure. The various electronic compasses, electronic ear muffs, entry-level night vision from Moonlight Products or Tasco, keep interest high and sell easily in my store."

Lasers

The interest in laser-sighting systems for handguns and long guns is at an all-time high. Two of the leaders in the field are Crimson Trace and LaserMax. With the introduction of the laser grips for the Smith and Wesson J-Frame and now the K, L and N-Frame models, Crimson Trace has taken the marketplace by storm. This kind of technology usually sells itself if your customers see it, but they have to see it in action to buy it.

Rangefinders

The days of awkward optical rangefinders are almost gone forever. When the first of the laser rangefinders were introduced a number of years ago, they generated heated debate concerning their usefulness in the real world. In addition, their high cost kept them in the hands of professional hunters, SWAT Teams and other specialized users.

Then Bushnell introduced their Yardage Pro 400 and the same rangefinding features became affordable. Once the buying public realized the ease of use and reliability of the units, the tidal wave began.

With the introduction of other models from Tasco (Model 800) and Bushnell (Yardage Pro 600, 800 and 1000), the range has increased while the features and performance have improved.

Swarovski's rangefinding riflescope, while still pricey, has helped to pave the way for new ideas and technology. This year, Nikon introduced the Monarch UCC Laser 600 Range finder riflescope, while Tasco announced their riflescope with rangefinding capabilities.

Global Positioning System

GPS technology has revolutionized hiking, camping and hunting. Now you can hike into the outback for miles and once there, call your friend and let him know exactly where you are in your stand. This is something unheard of just a few years ago and makes it much safer to be in the field. With a GPS you can't get lost and if you have a phone, like Garmin's combination GPS/Cellular NavTalk, you are a 911 call from help.

Magellan's GPS 300 sells for around $100 retail and lets virtually anyone know where they are, how fast they are traveling, remembers way-points and can even work at speeds up to 950 mph (like in an airplane, for instance). The Magellan 410 GPS even offers a map on the display and an automatic "backtrack" feature that lets you walk out exactly the way you came in. Take it all over the world, if you like, and in the Americas it has built-in detailed cartography maps. All this and more for around $350 retail.

Radios

Since the FCC opened the Family Radio Service band a few years ago, manufacturers have gone after this lucrative market. You can offer your customers a wide selection of radios. It's not uncommon to see a mom keeping tabs on junior in the local supermarket using a pair of personal radios. In the hunting camp, the radios can mean the difference between a long lonely walk dragging a deer or the cheery arrival of your buddy with the 4x4 to help out.

Motorola introduced the "Talk About" radio a couple of years ago and virtually started the craze. In addition, there are offerings from Kenwood, Midland and Maxon.

The radios come in shirt-pocket sizes up to bigger, hand-held units that have multiple channels and considerably more range. Prices can be as low as $65 retail for the entry-level models to several hundred dollars for the more sophisticated ones.

Night Vision

This field is gaining a lot of interest from hunters and bird watchers. Families use night vision to see the wonders of the night world as deer and other animals suddenly become visible. Look to ITT for a complete line of second and third generation gear that is truly cutting edge in performance.

Some of the imported Russian equipment is priced very affordably. Moonlight offers a wide selection from just a couple hundred dollars to higher performing gear. This lets a hunter, interested animal watcher or rancher get into the game for a reasonable price.

Sights

Where would action shooting be today without red-dot sights from any number of makers? ADCO, Aimpoint, Bushnell's Holo-Sight and the incredible microminiature Optima 2000 from Tasco are among the more popular. Their easy installation and often very affordable price, around $125 for basic models, make them just the ticket for Ruger 10-22s, hunting handguns, defensive shotguns, pistols and action shooting guns.

Hearing Amplification

Mega Ears is the newest electronic product from Bonner Technologies Group, the same folks who created the Game Finder thermal technology.

With Mega Ears, a hunter can not only hear a deer walking, but also pinpoint its location, because the "ears" provide directional perception. In addition, the advanced technology used in Mega Ears actually "clarifies sound." A sound limiting circuit protects the user's heating from loud noises.

Walker's Game Ear has been used for years by hunters to enhance their hearing. The company's Walker's Game Ear II permits the user to adjust the frequency so it's "tuned" to the ear. It has an amplification rating of 48dB to provide extreme "hearing" capability, while protecting hearing with the unit's circuit compressor.

Reloading

Don't leave your reloaders out of the game. The introduction of electronic scales a few years ago got the public's interest, but the often high price ($300 to $400) kept them away. Today's models from RCBS and others offer electronic accuracy for less than $200, with the RCBS "Partner" scale retailing for around $100 in many locations.

The scales now have a companion piece in the guise of an electronic powder measure. Designed to work in conjunction with an electronic scale, these measures are programmable and dish out just the load you want when you push the button. No more dipping or trying to get your balance scale calibrated.

Selling High-Tech

One store has a GPS set up in the display area. It has a big sign over it that reads, "You are here," with a finger pointing at a sign with the store's GPS coordinates. Next to it is another sign that reads, "And you want to be here." A finger points to a topo map of a forest next to a color photo of a beautiful lake with woods and some deer in the distance. The third sign reads, "Get there with this." The finger points to an economical GPS. The owner says he sells three or four $100 GPSs a week. It just takes a few minutes to show customers how easy it is to work.

Set up a laser rangefinder, like the Bushnell Yardage Pro 800, where your customers can take readings. Put a sign next to it that asks your customers to estimate the ranges to various points outside the window of your shop. Then let them check with the rangefinder. One shop keeps a record and the customer closest to the correct answers on a particular day gets a small give-away prize like a pocket knife or a 10 percent coupon. Great ideas.
COPYRIGHT 1999 Publishers' Development Corporation
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Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Huntington, Roy
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Aug 1, 1999
Words:2047
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